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NEWS

This page is for general Casa Grande city government and other city reporting by Harold Kitching, continuing what he did at the Casa Grande Dispatch for 11 years before he resigned.


(Older items are in ARCHIVES)


Study sessions cover marijuana, PhoenixMart

(Posted April 19, 2014)


Three study sessions are on the agenda for the City Council on Monday.

The sessions begin at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

Topics are:

• A presentation by Cindy Schaider, executive director of Casa Grande Alliance, opposing legalization of recreational marijuana.

• An update on PhoenixMart by Jeremy Schoenfelder.

• An overview of the east side sewer line extension project.


Fire sprinklers for residential care or assisted living
homes before City Council during Monday meeting

(Posted April 18, 2014)


You'll find the regular council agenda for Monday HERE


The study sessions agenda is HERE


Scroll down page for earlier story on property maintenance code proposal


One of the City Code changes to be discussed by the City Council during Monday night's meeting concerns sprinkling systems in residential care or assisted living homes.

It's part of the Planning and Development Department looking at the model 2012 codes offered by the International Building Code Council. Those model codes, issued about every three years, are not mandatory, allowing cities to reject them, adopt them as a whole or amend them to meet city needs.

Casa Grande now operates under codes from 2003. Those were to be updated, but that was halted when the Arizona Legislature, under another law to control cities, banned updates. That has now been lifted, Planning and Development Director Paul Tice said during an earlier briefing for the City Council.

The recommendation to the council is to retain four areas from the 2003 code regarding sprinkler systems. Those exemptions are:

• R-4 group occupancies, legally existing as of March 30, 2008, shall not be required to install automatic sprinkler system unless there is an upward change in the number of occupants the facility is licensed to care for.

• State licensed residential care/assisted living facilities in which all of the care recipients are capable of self-preservation and responding to an emergency situation without assistance from another person.

• State licensed care/assisted living facility, legally existing as of March 30, 2008, in which some of the care recipients are capable of self-preservation and responding to emergency situations without assistance from another person.

• (Multifamily) occupancies with less than 5,000 square feet.

In the 2003 version, Tice told the council, "We also added a definition defines residential/assisted. We carried that definition forward. Basically it's a group for six to 10 people and it's a wide range of various group homes.

"And the reason why that definition is important is because it relates to whether or not these group homes are required to have fire sprinkler or not. 

"The 2012 building code requires all residential occupancies essentially to be sprinkled.

"So as a local amendment, we say no. Here in Casa Grande we're going to have four exceptions to that rule, and those are the same exceptions we had in the 2003 code."

In describing the categories, Tice said the R-4 occupancy "is really a group home with six to 10 people that if it legally existed as of when we adopted the prior code shall not be required to install sprinkler system unless there's an upward change in the number of occupants.

"So, it's licensed for eight and they're going to increase it to 10, we will require sprinkling if they're an R-4 occupancy. In an R-4 occupancy, the occupants would not be capable of self preservation."

The second category, Tice said, covers state-licensed residential care/assisted living facilities that offer care to ones capable of self preservation in an emergency situation without assistance. 

"So" he said, "you could build today a new residential care/assisted living for 10 people as long as they are all capable self preservation in an emergency, no sprinkler system is required.

"If you think about in this particular category, there's different kinds of group homes. You might be group home for elderly, group home for mentally disabled, you may have a group home for recovering alcoholics. They're very different groups in terms of ability to self preserve in cases of emergency, so this particular exemption acknowledges that."

The third exemption is basically the same as the first, Tice said, "but we left it in even though it probably covers almost the same territory as the number one exemption."

Public hearings. sometimes testy, were held over several months as the proposals were being put together.

"We had a lot of discussion," Tice said. "We invited all the operators of existing group homes of six to 10 to our public hearing and there was a lot of discussion about whether or not the existing group homes that are not sprinkled where people are not capable of self preservation should be sprinkled or not.

"Our initial proposal was they should be sprinkled, over a certain period of time. We've backed off that and based on the testimony we heard and we're staying with the current 2003 amendments that are in place that does not require them to sprinkle unless they increase their occupant load."


Casa Grande unemployment rate goes to 7.8%

(Posted April 17, 2014)


You can check other cities in the state HERE


Check other counties HERE


Partial unemployment statistics posted today by the Arizona Department of Administration show Casa Grande with a jobless rate of 7.8 percent during March, up from 7.4 during February. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,633 people out of work during March, up from 1,527 for February. 

Casa Grande had a 3.9 percent jobless rate for March 2007, the year before the economy crashed. That was 654 people without work. The 2007 average was 4.1, or 693 out of work.

Pinal County also had a March rate of 7.8 percent jobless (11,069 without work), up from 7.5 during February. The county's 2013 average was 8.8 (12,112 jobless).

Statistics from the state usually include unincorporated areas and Indian communities, but the state said those figures are still being revised, thus only cities are included for March. No release date for the other statistics was given.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

7.4 percent jobless rate for March (348 unemployed), up from 7.1 percent during February. The 2013 average rate was 8.2 percent (379 unemployed).

Eloy

12.1 rate for March (484 jobless), up from 11.6 during February. The 2013 average rate was 13.3 (527 jobless).

Florence

10 rate for March (321 jobless), up from 9.7 during February. The 2013 average rate was 9.8 (309 jobless).

Maricopa city

7.4 rate for March (1,495 jobless), up from 7.2 during February. The 2013 average rate was 8.1 (1,605 jobless).


City working on updating airport layout plan

(Posted April 16, 2014)


Casa Grande is seeking professionals to prepare an updated airport layout plan, leading the facility into the future.

The work includes documenting the current and future short-term facility, operational and management challenges that the airport faces, including recommendations on how to handle them. Forecasts of aviation demands is also to be included, as is a financial plan.

The existing layout of the airport is to be documented and a proposed layout plan submitted.


You'll find the complete request for qualifications HERE


You'll find the airport master plan at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/publicworks/airport/airport-master-plan/


General airport information is at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/publicworks/airport/


High-speed rail link comment period continues

(Posted April 8, 2014)


The city issued this announcement today:


The public comment period continues for the Arizona Department of Transportation's passenger rail study. 

The ADOT Passenger Rail Corridor Study is part of the department’s long-range plan to determine what it will take to construct a rail line to link Phoenix and Tucson, while meeting demands for future growth and travel options along Interstate 10, one of the busiest highway corridors in Arizona.

Seven alternatives have been narrowed to three. The city of Casa Grande endorses the GREEN alternative (running down Interstate 10).

 

View the alternatives online and take a survey today at the main website:

http://www.azdot.gov/planning/CurrentStudies/PassengerRail


You'll find the alternatives maps here

http://www.azdot.gov/docs/default-source/planning/final-alternatives-2013.pdf?sfvrsn=0


Ross honored for almost 25 years with city

Mayor Bob Jackson, above right, reads from a plaque honoring Gilbert Ross for almost 25 years with the city. At left, Ross addresses the council during his retirement ceremony.


(Posted April 7, 2014)


Gilbert Ross was honored by the City Council during Monday's meeting upon his retirement as a parks maintenance worker overseeing irrigation systems.

Ross began with the city Dec. 11, 1989, retiring this April 4, meaning almost 25 years on the job.

"It's bittersweet when we have retirees come in" Major Bob Jackson told Ross, "because while it's nice to see that you're retiring, we hate to see you go.

"For those who don't know, Gilbert worked for what's now the Community Services Department, used to be the Parks and Recreation Department.

"You've handled the irrigation systems for as long as I've known, so for those of you in the Evergreen District that have irrigation, Gilbert is the guy that's taken care of you all these years."

"Gilbert, I wish you well in retirement and I'm sure it will be a nice long retirement. I hope you have lots of plans and things to do. Thank you, Gilbert, for your service."

Ross was given a plaque marking his service and a camcorder as a retirement gift.

"You can go on YouTube," Jackson said.

Ross said, "I want to thank the mayor, the City Council, the city manager for the great job you do for the city, keep us working and keep the city move along.

"It's been a pleasure and a blessing to work here for the city of Casa Grande."

Councilman Dick Powell said, "Gilbert, you have time to go hunting now."

Jackson added, "And he's got a camcorder to record it."


First step taken to clear way for major bakery on west side keying to healthy food products

(Posted April 5, 2014)


You'll find the Food for Life philosophy and other information at

http://www.foodforlife.com/


Definitions of zoning districts, such as I-1



The old song asks, Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy …

Well, in Casa Grande it depends upon where you're located. Your kitchen, OK; big bakeries, not always.

The Planning and Zoning Commission has sent a recommendation to the City Council to change that, opening the way for a 150,000-square-foot bakery keying on the health angle, including breads, buns, cereals, croutons, English muffins, pasta, pocket breads, tortillas, vegan meats and waffles.

As it now stands, on-site sale bakeries of less than 3,500 square feet are allowed in the four business zoning districts. Bakeries larger than that are allowed only in the I-2 zoning district.

That leaves Food for Life out in the cold. It's a California baking company that bought a 75,000-square-foot building at Gila Bend Highway and Thornton Road, intending to double it in size. 

The problem is, the location is in the I-1 zoning district -- bakeries not permitted.

An irony is that other food processing businesses such as Daisy Brand, Franklin Foods, Ehrmann/Commonwealth Dairy are I-1 district neighbors, thus legal because they are not bakeries.

As City Planner Keith Newman put it for the commission, "They're all food processing uses and these are uses that are very similar to a large commercial, industrial type of bakery. In fact, from the outside of these businesses you would probably not even be able to tell the difference between those food processing uses and the bakery that is being proposed by the Food for Life bakery company."

Simply put, the proposed changes delete the size regulations, classing the business districts as retail bakery allowed. The industrial designations would change to bakery commercial in both I-1 and I-2.

The identify retail bakery as "an establishment primarily engaged in preparing, baking or cooking baked products for on-site retail sales for on-site or off-site consumption, secondly to include incidental on-site food service and distribution to local businesses."

A commercial bakery is defined as "an industrial establishment primarily engaged in manufacturing and distributing of baked products."

Member Ruth Lynch asked if Food for Life would be able to have an area for local retail sales.

"That definition does not stop them from having an accessory sales type area somewhere inside the building," Newman responded. "Food for Life told me that they would probably be selling a product that maybe it's not bad product, it's just stuff that doesn't meet their exact specifications. Maybe it doesn't fit in the bag properly or it's too big, it comes out of the oven too big. Stuff like that that they would possibly or potentially be able to sell on-site. They might have a little tiny store where you can go in and buy their products. So that definition does not preclude them from doing that."

Newman pointed out that bakeries in supermarkets such as Fry's or Safeway do not fall under the regulations because baking is only a small part of the main grocery business.


Automation at a city landfill? Yep, it happens

(Posted April 3, 2014)


You'll find the complete request HERE



When automation is mentioned, we generally think of office equipment, computers and other such things.

But for a city landfill?

Yep.

Casa Grande has issued a request for bids for a replacement for the Tarpomatic 40-foot automatic trapping machine used for alternative daily cover for the active landfill work area.

In case this turns you on, the specifics are:

• Minimum 40-feet-wide tarping capability. 

• Electric-start diesel engine with remote operation. 

• Tarp spool removable from the machine when the tarp is completely deployed to

allow installation of replacement spool and deployment of second tarp.

• Must be adjustable to custom fit and be transported by the blade of a landfill dozer and/or compactor, facilitating quick and easy attachment and removal from

dozer and/or compactor.

Bids are due to the city by April 22.


Proposed property maintenance code keys
on keeping buildings in habitable condition



Pictures used to illustrate a presentation by Planning and Development Director Paul Tice about a property maintenance code were of the former funeral home at Eighth Street and Olive Avenue, long fallen into major disrepair.

(Posted April 1, 2014)


A property maintenance code is being put together by the Casa Grande Planning and Development Department, the first time the city has had such regulations. It's aimed at requiring habitable structures.

The code has not yet been adopted by the City Council and is not in effect.

It's part of the department looking at the model 2012 codes offered by the International Building Code Council. Those model codes, issued about every three years, are not mandatory, allowing cities to reject them, adopt them as a whole or amend them to meet city needs.

Casa Grande now operates under codes from 2003. Those were to be updated, but that was halted when the Arizona Legislature, under another law to control cities, banned updates. That has now been lifted, Planning and Development Director Paul Tice said during a briefing for the City Council.

Only about half of the IBCC property maintenance code would be adopted, Tice said, because the city already has equivalent codes covering those areas.

"For example," he said, "a lot of the (IBCC) property maintenance code talks about the exterior appearance of properties, with maybe rubbish storage, junk storage, those kinds of things, which are already covered in our public nuisance codes. So our guideline was, if we already had an existing code in place that addressed the issue, we didn't to adopt a new code."

Tice said the regulations the city would adopt from the proposed IBCC property maintenance code "really are those that talk about that the structure has to remain habitable. The structure has to have a roof that is not leaking, electrical system that's working, a plumbing system that's working. The floors cannot be rotting out or there can't be situations where the bathtub's falling through the floor."

The proposed amendments would be a tool for the city, Tice said, "to address that situation where there might be a rental, a situation with a tenant and they have a landlord where there are problems with the living unit that are making it uninhabitable and the landlord just won't respond, won't fix, won't do anything.

"I guess the interesting thing to think about with this maintenance code, though, is it doesn't force the landlord to repair a structure. What it does, it tells the landlord if he wants to continue to rent it and for it to be occupied, he has to make those repairs. The landlord or property owner can choose to just vacate the premises and not have anyone living there. 

"Really, this is a property maintenance code, minimum maintenance for habitation, that's the way to think about it.

"If it's uninhabitable, the property owner won't, can't make the repairs, not habitable and they vacate it, we still have our process of saying it's a vacant structure, is it safe or unsafe?

If it's unsafe structure, you still have the process to deal with that in our existing code, which is demolition. We can board it up and make sure it's secured from trespass."

Councilman Dick Powell pointed out that there have been situations with "people that couldn't afford except what they were living in and they were worried if they said something about their landlord he'd kick them out and then they were on the street. Some of them had leaking plumbing behind walls where you had mold accumulating and those kind of things, and felt helpless to do anything about it. This gives them a way to be protected and the city a way to address those situations, so I appreciate that."

There much discussion about the proposal, Councilman Matt Herman said, "and we want to walk the fine line between property rights for the owner and safe habitation. "We didn't want to turn into an HOA as a city. This is more about health and public safety. That was a big consideration that Paul went through and I think we came up with a good solution to where we're not being an HOA but we're making sure that people are in safe situations."

As Tice put it for the council, "It's nowhere near some of those architectural design regulations that an HOA might have.

"Really, the code we're proposing for the property maintenance code are pretty severe code violations, health, safety violations or habitable space. Peeling paint, it's not going to be a violation. But if you have a hole in your roof and the rain's coming in, it would be a violation if someone's living there. If you have stairs, the stairs have to be maintained safe so you can walk on them and use them."

Tice suggested that the council hold a formal study session to go over proposed code amendments in detail. Final versions of the proposals have not been released.


Weeds taking over your alley? You're responsible 
for whacking them down to head off a fire hazard

(Posted March 30, 2014)


You'll find the complete City Code at

http://www.amlegal.com/library/az/casa_grande.shtml


Are weeds taking over your alley?

It's your responsibility to whack them down so that they don't cause a fire hazard.

According to the City Code, you are responsible for upkeep of alleys to the centerline.

A complaint about weeds came from John T. Holland, a frequent complainer about various matters, during the last City Council meeting.

"We now have a crop of weeds growing in the alleyways," he said. "We used have the Fire Department provide a warning, quite awhile back.

"Nobody seems to care. I've had to actually cut some grass away from places (around his Cholla Street home) so I wouldn't have a problem.

"It's bad, I'm telling you. Our alleyways are something else right now."

Mayor Bob Jackson told Holland, "We will get on that. Good point. It's that time of year where it starts drying up."

So far, the city has not posted a general notice on its website.


The City Code has this to say about weeds: 


Section 302.4 

Weeds. All developed premises and exterior property shall be maintained free from weeds in excess of twelve (12) inches. Vacant undeveloped properties shall be maintained free from weed in excess of twenty-four (24) inches. All noxious weeds shall be prohibited. Weeds shall not include cultivated flowers and gardens.

"Upon failure of the owner or agent having charge of a property to cut and destroy weeds after service of a notice of violation, they shall be subject to prosecution in accordance with Section 114 of the Administrative Code and as prescribed by the authority having jurisdiction. Upon failure to comply with the notice of violation, any duly authorized employee of the jurisdiction or contractor hired by the jurisdiction shall be authorized to enter upon the property in violation and cut and destroy the weeds growing thereon, and the costs of such removal shall be paid by the owner or agent responsible for the property.


8.12.140  

Public rights-of-way owner of adjacent property to maintain.

The owner or person in control of any private property shall at all times maintain adjacent unutilized street right-of-way and the portion of the alley contiguous with the property up to the centerline of the alley free of litter.


8.12.300  Abatement procedure.

A. The city shall give reasonable written notice to abate any violation of this chapter to all persons with an interest in the property or agents of such persons.

B. Notice shall contain: 

   1. The legal description of the property;

   2. The cost of such removal to the city if notified persons do not comply;

   3. A date for compliance which shall not be less than 30 days after the date notice was given;

   4. Identification of the property in violation by street address if it exists; and

   5. A statement of the violation(s) in sufficient detail to allow a reasonable person to identify and correct them.

C. Said written notice shall be either personally served, mailed by certified mail at their last known address or the address to which the tax bill for the subject property was last sent; or served in accordance with the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure.

D. The city may record the notice in the Office of Pinal County Recorder.  If such notice is recorded and compliance with the notice is subsequently satisfied, the city shall record a release of the notice.

(Ord. 1397.08.07 § 3 (part), 1998)


8.12.310  

City abatement upon failure to abate by person with interest in property.

A. Upon failure of any notified person, to abate a public nuisance within compliance time set in the written notice, the city may remove, abate, enjoin or cause removal of the violation.

B. Removal, abatement, or the acquisition of an injunction may be accomplished, at the sole discretion of the city, by city staff or an independent contractor.

C. The city manager, or his authorized representative, shall prepare a verified statement and account of the actual cost of abatement action, legal fees, additional inspection and other incidental connected costs.

D. The amount in the verified statement and account is declared as an assessment upon the lot or tract of land on which the violation occurred.  Said assessment may be collected at the same time and in the same manner as other city assessments are collected.

E. A copy of the statement and account shall be personally delivered; sent by certified mail, return receipt requested; or served in accordance with the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure to all persons with an interest in the property and/or their agents.

F. The assessment shall be recorded in the Pinal County Recorder's Office and from the date of its recording shall be a lien on the lot or tract of land and the several amounts assessed against the lot or tract of land until paid.


Casa Grande jobless rate drops 1 percent to 7.4

(Posted March 27, 2014)


You can check other cities in the state HERE


Partial unemployment statistics posted today by the Arizona Department of Administration show Casa Grande with a jobless rate of 7.4 percent during February, down from 8.4 during January. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,740 people out of work during January, dropping to 1,527 for February. 

Casa Grande had a 4.2 percent jobless rate for February 2007, the year before the economy crashed. The 2007 average was 4.1, or 693 out of work.

Pinal County had a February rate of 7.5 percent jobless (10,450 without work), down from 8.3 during January (11,671). The county's 2013 average was 8.8 (12,112 jobless).

Statistics from the state usually include unincorporated areas and Indian communities, but the state said those figures are still being revised, thus only cities are included for January and February. No release date for the other statistics was given.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

7.1 percent jobless rate for February (329 unemployed), 7.9 percent during January (367 jobless). The 2013 average rate was 8.2 percent (379 unemployed).

Eloy

11.7 rate for February (457 jobless), 12.9 during January (510). The 2013 average rate was 13.3 (527 jobless).

Florence

9.7 for February (305 jobless), 10.3 for January (326). The 2013 average rate was 9.8 (309 jobless).

Maricopa city

7.2 for February (1,431 jobless), 8.1 for January (1,612 jobless). The 2013 average rate was 8.1 (1,605 jobless).


Is your business ready?
City offers 64-page business disaster preparedness guide

(Posted March 26, 2014)


Although often overlooked, there's a package on the city website that will help your business prepare for a disaster, be it natural or otherwise.

The 64-page package is entitled Disaster Preparedness for Businesses: Ready Your Business.


You can download it from the city website at 

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/05/Ready-Your-Business-Guidebook-final.pdf


There are several parts to the package, with checklists and guides covering various emergency situations and costs, but the main one is called 12-Point Program For Success Business Continuity Planning Guidebook.

Those points are:

• Creating a Planning Team

Identify who needs to be on the “team” to effectively represent the organization.

• Continuity of Authority

Designating the chain of authority within the organization and departments.

• Risks and Hazards

Assist the planner in determining a priority and procedure for each potential business interruption by assessing risks and hazards. Evaluating the cost of downtime.

• Internal Resources and Capabilities/External Resources

Evaluate each department or area of the organization to identify resources and capabilities. Identify what external resources are available to the planner and the organization in planning and response.

• Vulnerability Assessment

Planning should include an all hazard analysis to identify types of emergency. Complete a vulnerability assessment.

• Essential Business Functions

Determine each “function” that generates revenue or is essential to normal business operations. Identify what functions must be operating for recovery. Recognize the most critical, time sensitive and analyze cost of downtime.

• Human Resources: Employee/Owner Contacts

Review what you should know about your employees, how to communicate, train and prepare for unexpected events.

• Workplace Evacuation and Sheltering Plan

Safety of employees, customers and clients – Do you evacuate, stay in place or both?

• Workplace Emergency Supply Kit

What should every facility have in case of an emergency? Is there a liability for a business that doesn’t? What should an employee provide?

• Insurance Coverage Review

Most business rely on an insurance policy to carry them through a disaster. Find out what may save your business from permanent closure.

• Vital Records

Identify what is “vital” to normal business operations.

• Data Protection/Storage/Recovery

Protect against the number-one business interruption by developing a backup program and offsite storage procedure with a data recovery program. Establish procedures to safeguard data against outside attacks and employee error. Protect your business against compromised personal information. Test the plan.


CG seeks operator for cafe at main library

(Posted March 25, 2014)


You'll find the request at

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/04/RFQ-MainLibraryCafeEatery.pdf


Casa Grande is seeking an operator for a coffee shop/cafe in the renovated downtown library on Drylake Street, expected to open next month.

According to the request for proposals, the city wants a menu that focuses on foods that require only warming, cooling, or finishing on site, such as salads, sandwiches, pastries, coffee and juices.

The request for proposals say the coffee shop/cafe space on the east side of the building will be 140 square feet, with another 70 square feet for storage. Seating will be available in the hallway adjacent to the café and on the 720-square-foot outdoor patio.

The operation would be open during normal library hours.

"In addition to daily staff and customers, there are frequent meetings and events at the Main Library, which may provide food service and catering opportunities from time to time," the request says. "The Main Library is receptive to ideas about additional special events/catering opportunities that the successful proposer may suggest."


Casa Grande embarking on extensive project
to upgrade emergency communications system

(Posted March 19, 2014)


The request is HERE


Additional documents are HERE


Casa Grande is embarking on a major project to upgrade and modernize its emergency communications system.

According to the posting asking for qualified proposals, the work will be to provide and start up a computer-aided dispatch/records management system for the police and fire departments. Additionally, the system would include a law enforcement records management system, mobile data computing, automated field reporting, automatic vehicle location system and conversion of existing records. Training in the new operation would also be provided.

Computer-aided dispatch is the system that manages 911 and nonemergency calls for service and the sending of the calls to police officers or firefighters.

The records management system stores case records and creates statistical reports.

                                          (Story continues below chart)

"The purpose of this project is to implement an updated CAD/RMS for use by public safety departments enabling all users to better analyze public safety trends, link crimes and events, identify suspects or patients, and improve the quality of field reporting and statistical reports," the request says.

"The CAD/RMS project is created to replace the existing CAD/RMS solutions, which the city has used for more than 15 years. The primary drivers of the project are the limited level of functionality offered by the existing system, aging hardware and software, technical support concerns, and to ensure the safety of department personnel. 

"The ultimate goal is to create a combined public safety Emergency Communications Center that encompasses joint communications functions for police, fire and emergency medical resources, and includes an Emergency Operations Center. 

"Casa Grande’s long-range vision includes becoming a regional ECC in support of the needs of neighboring jurisdictions."

The request says specific project objectives include:

• Re-engineer business processes to increase efficiency.

• Reduce handwritten forms and duplication of effort (e.g. entering same data into multiple systems).

• Eliminate nonenterprise level databases and spreadsheets used to track data.

• More accurately deploy resources. For example, dispatchers and supervisors in the field will be able to determine where units are located within the city, as these units respond to calls in real time. This will lower response times for all public safety units.

• Staff can compile and publish frequently used statistical reports without the assistance of technical staff and without the need to access multiple databases.

• Units can write and file incident reports in the field. 

• The CAD/RMS will be available to their users at least 99.99 percent of the time, on a

24/7/365 basis, within six months of implementation.

• Increased safety to units as more information will be available directly within the vehicles.

• Accurate data conversion of selected data ranges and fields.

• Use mapping capabilities within CAD system.

• Technical architecture will comply with current Casa Grande standards.

• Provide ability to analyze public safety incidents for commonalities, trends, and patterns.

After proposals have been received and evaluated, the best qualified one will go before the City Council in September.

"For planning purposes," the request says, "the city Of Casa Grande has identified a total installation timeframe spanning up to 24 months from the date of City Council authorization and execution of the contract for successful completion of the system implementation activities, no later than Oct. 31, 2016."

The communications center, with expansion of work areas and modernization of the building almost complete, is located in the old Police Department building on Marshall Street south of Florence Boulevard.


Description

The Police Department's website and part of the request give this description of the Public Safety Communications Division:

The Public Safety Communications of the Police Department provides the personnel that link the public with the sworn officers in the field. The division has 15 public safety clerk positions whose functions include 911 operator, public safety dispatcher, records clerk, receptionists, secretary, and supervisor. Public Safety Communications is currently under the command of Mike Brashier.

Civilian personnel are most often the first line of communications with the general public, whether handling “walk in” citizens requests for service or answering 911 emergency calls for both the Police Department and Fire Department. 

Civilian employees classify and prioritize the calls for service, dispatch officers as needed, record dispositions of calls, then handle the follow up paper work. The followup work consists of data entry into the department’s computer system, filing of reports, and transferring reports to related agencies and entities such as prosecutors, courts, and insurance companies.

Public safety dispatchers (911 operators) attend to incoming calls on eight phone lines, 10 911 lines, four extensions and one Silent Witness line. 

They must also enter all calls for service into the police computer to dispatch the calls. Other duties include fulfilling records requests, processing and filing incoming paperwork, data entry of all citations and police reports into the computer system, criminal history inquiries in the state’s crime computer, submitting fingerprints through the state’s automated fingerprint identification system, and numerous other tasks to keep the internal operation of the department organized and efficient.

Supervisors in the division perform as “working supervisors,” doing one of the above jobs in addition to assisting with scheduling, completing employee evaluations, supervising civilian employees, and completing projects assigned by the commander.

When not assigned as a 911 operator or public safety dispatcher, the public safety clerks function as records clerks assisting in the records duties. 

These duties include forwarding reports to other criminal justice agencies, preparing statistical information, uniform crime reporting to the state and FBI, and other secretarial duties for the chief of police and his three division commanders.

State lands firefighting agreement renewed

(Posted March 18, 2014)


The reimbursement rates are HERE


The agreement with the Arizona State Land Department to reimburse Casa Grande and the Fire Department for time and equipment to help fight fires on state lands and during natural disasters has been renewed.

Approval was given by the City Council during Monday night's meeting.

The two-year contract replaces one that expires March 31.

"State Land establishes the standardized rates for equipment only," the staff report says. "They pay our actual cost of personnel plus employee related expenses, including backfill. This can be at either the straight or overtime rate. All fire fighting vehicles are charged by the hour for their use and a command vehicle is charged by the day, plus mileage. 

"This agreement provides the reimbursement mechanism for wildland deployments and other natural disasters such as flooding where mutual aid is provided for extended operating periods. This agreement is also required for any Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursement for local disaster recovery cost associated with mitigation and recovery.

"Revenues collected through this established rate agreement will cover our actual cost of wages, training and equipping the wildland team."


O'Neil/Trekell traffic signal goes active today

(Posted March 17, 2014)


The city issued this announcement today:


The 4-way traffic signal at the intersection of Trekell Road and O’Neil Drive is expected to be fully operational on Tuesday, March 18. 

Please slow down and watch for pedestrians in the crosswalk.


The question: If a $30,000 truck has done well,
why replace it with one costing twice as much?

(Posted March 17, 2014)


You'll find the staff report HERE


If you have a $30,000 Sanitation Division truck that has lasted for 15 years, now with 92,903 miles on it, why would you want to spend more than twice as much to replace it with a more expensive vehicle?

That was the question Monday night before the City Council.

The request was that the present vehicle, a Dodge Ram 35000, be replaced by a 2015 Freightliner chassis equipped with an existing fork lift body. That would cost $73,770, which the staff report says is a 33 percent reduction from the list price.

"Specifications for this vehicle include the necessary options as required for safe and serviceable operation for our Sanitation Division," the report says. "Included are the government mandated emission technology for near zero emissions; heavy-duty batteries and charging system; heavy-duty upgraded driveline & skid protection; anti-lock braking system; front engine power take off; and upgraded rear tires. This will not only insure a longer useful life span, but add to the value of the vehicle when replaced after its life cycle is complete. The cab and chassis, engine and transmission unit are covered under a 2 year standard warranty."

As Deputy Public Works Director Greg Smith put it during his presentation to the council, "We use this to deliver our front end trash containers for various commercial accounts and we also use it to deliver some of our larger containers. It's met its requirements for replacement so we're asking to move forward. We're going with a more robust chassis which will allow us to move large pieces of equipment and it will be easier on everybody."

Councilman Matt Herman had reservations.

"Going from a Dodge 3500 to a  Freightliner, that's quite a big jump up," he said. "And looking at the numbers here, the old Dodge is a 1999, has almost a hundred thousand miles. It's a 15-year-old truck, seems like it's been serving us well. A $30,000 truck compared to the $73,000 truck. I don't see the need."

It's basically the heavier construction, Smith replied.

"Right now, our piece of equipment is undersized compared to the industry standards for doing this kind of work," he continued. "We keep pushing it, we've been lucky. As we continue to grow, as we get more containers, larger containers, things like that, we believe it's really an appropriate investment."

Herman asked if there have been safety issues or problems with the present truck.

"I can't tell you that," Smith answered. "I didn't really look into that."

Councilman Dick Powell asked if there are now some large trash containers that crews are having trouble handling with the present vehicle or if it is anticipated that more large ones will be purchased.

Smith responded that, "As we grow, we'll probably be bringing in more. The guys have been saying that the one we have, it's pushing them as they try to do their rounds, it's hard for them to get the equipment out. Again, per the industry standards, this particular body is more in line with what the industry standards are for this kind of work."

Mayor Bob Jackson remarked that, "If you do the math, it's a huge jump in the price."

Herman said he would like more information about the proposed purchase, especially if it will really be needed, given that there is now competition from private trash haulers.

"From a business standpoint," he said, "a 15-year-old truck and I've not heard any problems with it before. A $30,000 vehicle and now we've got to buy a $73,000 truck. I just question that in the budget, how we spend over twice as much."

City Manager Jim Thompson said the request could be table until more detailed information is brought back to the council.

Jackson said part of that information could be maintenance records. If they show that the city is spending large amounts of money to maintain the present vehicle, that would change the picture.

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons said she would like that information to include how many cities in the state are using the newer equipment and how many are using older vehicles.

Jackson suggested also surveying private trash collectors to see what type of vehicles they use.

In moving to table the issue, Powell said, "It's not a huge amount of money, but it's double what we spent before, so I think we do need to ask the questions and determine, go from there."

The vote to table was unanimous.

In other action Monday night, the council approved a right of way easement with Sundance1. An agenda item on resubdividing Arroyo Grande was removed from the agenda before the meeting began. That was to be discussed in the private executive session following the meeting.


Pavement resurfacing for three subdivisions 
now under way; other areas, roads to come

(Posted March 14, 2014)


Work on resurfacing streets in three Casa Grande subdivision begins Monday, March 17, with work in other areas authorized but yet to be scheduled.

The work is in McCartney Center subdivision Monday through Friday, March 21. Between March 24-April 1 the street work will be done in Village subdivision, followed by Mission Royale from April 21-25.

"Construction crews will be working from 7 a.m.-5:00 p.m.," the city announcement said. "While work is under way, there will be lane restrictions, but one lane will remain open in each direction at all times. Access to businesses will be maintained and advance notification will be given. Motorists are advised to please obey all traffic signs and slow down in construction zones. Thanks for your patience."

Not yet scheduled is resurfacing in the Meyers Homesites, Sierra Ranch and Rancho Palo Verde subdivisions.

Work not yet scheduled on streets includes Arizola Road from Cottonwood Lane south to East Penny Lane, Hacienda Road from Kortsen Road to Florence Boulevard, Cottonwood Lane from Interstate 10 to Overfield Road, Kortsen Road from Hacienda Road to Signal Peak Road, Overfield Road north from Florence Boulevard to the city limits, Selma Highway from South Mitchell Road to North Toltec Buttes Road, and West Peters Road from South Chuichu Road to the city limits.

The work is part of annual maintenance program on the city's 409 miles of streets.

In asking during the last City Council for approval of two contracts totaling $1,297,087, Public Works Director Kevin Louis said, "These are pavement segments that are deteriorating at a rapid pace and don’t necessarily match the data that we got from our pavement management system. This is not unusual. We’re in the first five years of our pavement management system, this is just one of those anomalies that we came across. 

"The majority of the roads we’re looking at are rural roads that were part of our recent annexations and they are deteriorating at a faster rate and we need to do something now. Otherwise, we’re going to end up spending a lot more money."

Councilman Matt Herman said he had had comments from residents asking why the city was spending more than a million dollars for street work.

"I say this is one of our biggest assets," Herman said, noting that a presentation on the annual financial report showed total valuation of city property at about $300 million. Louis later told CG News that the original value of streets in the city was $204 million. With normal depreciation, he said, the value is about $120 million.

As Herman sees it, "We have to maintain this stuff because it’s going to cost us a lot more in the long run. I know it’s a lot of money to spend, but we need to maintain our roads."

Herman also asked why those rural area roads are deteriorating. "Do we know the type of traffic?" he asked. "Is it heavy trucks?"

Louis responded that, "I think typically what you see in the rural areas, unincorporated Pinal County, those roadways were developed at a different standard. They’re not developed at an urban level standard, they weren’t developed to handle truck traffic and those types of things.

If you go out there on any given day, the amount of traffic traveling across these roads has really increased.

"Typically, a pavement is a double chip seal and then they build on top of that. This (deterioration) is a typical reaction when these roads get to a certain age.

"Our deterioration curve that we have in our system puts it about a 10-year downslide and these are dropping just much more drastically. So we're just having to react and not having the chance to be as proactive as we want to be on these particular roads."

Councilman Karl Montoya, noting that the Public Works Department has a computerized pavement management system, yet the deterioration was described by Louis as an anomaly.

"A $1.3 million anomaly," Montoya said. "How much of it (maintenance) was kind of scheduled and how much was kind of like out of the blue?"

Louis said Public Works is in the process of developing its five-year plan for streets.

"Some of these roadways had come up as part of that plan," he said," but when you go out there and really look at the actual condition and you track our work orders where we're doing our patching out there, it didn't match the pavement condition indexes that were being developed out of our pavement management system. 

"I don't know if when we did the original data collection we got bad data. It's very hard to tell. Sometimes you can have a great subgrade and your pavement is just terrible, otherwise vice versa."

Given that, Montoya asked how much Public Works could rely on the pavement management system.

"That is a great tool," he said, "but, I mean, do we look for more anomalies coming out of it, I guess is what I'm looking at. I'm sure we're getting better with it, but how comfortable are we with it now?"

Louis said the department is very comfortable with the management system.

"Each year, we're going to have better data and with better data we're going to be able to make better decisions," he said. "What the tool's really going to help us do is forecast what our spending is going to be five to 10 years out, so that we can start to look at what is that revenue stream we need to support that type of effort. Currently, our revenue streams don't support what we see five to 10 years out, so we do need to take a close look at that. We're working on that every day."

It's sort of no-win situation, Councilman Dick Powell said.

"As Matt brings out," he continued, "if you spend a lot of money, people say you're spending a lot of money, but if the streets don't get fixed people are saying why don't you spend money and fix them.

"And I think that the way we're doing it is probably as orderly and fair as we can be. I know there's going to be people that have issues that we're not going to make happy this year or maybe next."

Powell added that he does get questions from residents in the Toltec Buttes area, who "have asked over and over about that half mile yet on Hacienda, Hacienda from the south end of Early going out Arizona, about half a mile. I didn't know if there's any idea on when that might be paved. They'd be on a pavement if they could go from Arizola on in. 

"I know originally they thought Arizona was going to get earlier work and it turned out the expectation was built that that was going to be completed and it was going to be a nice way to go back and forth without having to go back across or go down Overfield or that way, either way you get on dirt."

Louis responded that, "Originally, we had looked at that section being paved as part of the I-10 widening project. And when they didn't move forward, we tried to logically come up with the piece that impacted our residents the most. And you're right, there is really no good way to get back into town from that area, it's an underserviced area, if you will.

"It's something we'll take a look at. Right now, we don't have a lot of plans to expand our system, we're just trying to maintain our system. But I think once we start to see more construction and we start to see those fund balances coming up, then we can start to look at some of those types of projects."

A year ago, Deputy Public Works Director Greg Smith told the council that to bring the condition all of Casa Grande’s streets up to maximum possible levels would cost almost $19 million.



Board of Adjustment OK temporary at-risk
monument sign for PhoenixMart main entry

(Posted March 12, 2014)


You'll find the staff report, with drawings HERE


The developers of the 585-acre PhoenixMart project north of Florence Boulevard three miles east of Interstate 10 want to go ahead with some work on an at-risk basis pending formal approval from the city, the Board of Adjustment was told Tuesday night.

That was brought out during discussion before the 5-1 approval of a request by PhoenixMart for a temporary use permit for 60-foot-long, 10-foot-high monument sign in four sections at what will eventually be the main entrance. 

So far, a comprehensive sign plan has not been submitted. That means that the sign will be constructed at-risk. If the Planning and Zoning Commission does not approve the comprehensive plan or the city has other objections, it will have to be torn down.

According to the staff report accompanying the agenda item, "A comprehensive sign plan is required to be reviewed and approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission prior to the construction of permanent signage for the PhoenixMart. If the comprehensive sign plan allows the type of signs constructed under the temporary use permit, then these signs will be left in place and permitted as permanent signage. If the monument wall signs installed with this temporary use permit are not approved with the comprehensive sign plan they will be removed or otherwise modified to comply with the requirements of the comprehensive sign plan."

Planning and Development Director Paul Tice put it in everyday language for the board:

"If the Planning Commission in approving the comprehensive sign plan was to approve signs that differ from these, these would not be allowed to exist. They'd have to be torn down and new signs constructed that conform to whatever comprehensive sign plan the Planning Commission might approve," he said. "If you were to grant this approval, it's only good for a maximum of two years. These are at-risk signs through the temporary use permit. There's no authority for these signs to become permanent unless the comprehensive sign plan that is eventually approved allows these signs."

The long dissent vote came from board member Gordon Beck, who said he was unhappy with the size of the sign and was uncomfortable approving something that has not already been approved by the Planning Commission.

Senior Planner Leila Demaree told the board that PhoenixMart has submitted an application for a major site plan, or final development plan, which is now being revised. It has also submitted an application for a preliminary plat for the entire 585-acre site, now also being revised.

"It will take time," Demaree said. "It will require a little more time to put all those revisions together, especially that they are required to submit a traffic impact analysis to be approved by the Arizona Department of Transportation, as well as our traffic engineer for the city."

Brad Holyoak, a PhoenixMart representative who said his role is to manage the construction of the project and some of the development, outlined past problems and where the company wants to go from here.

"As you know, we've experienced some challenges in rolling out our project," he said. "And admittedly, many of those challenges are self-induced challenges.

"We're at a point now where our intention is to come to staff in the month of May with a building permit application that allows us to move forward on a full-scale building permit with our project.

"So given that, we have tried to identify several components of the project, the overall project, that we can approach prior to having that permit, admittedly on a fully at-risk basis."

PhoenixMart wants the monument sign now, Holyoak said, both to make the area attractive and to identify the location for the public and project investors.

"The lowest hanging fruit, I want to say, that makes the most sense for us is to go ahead and attempt to put in this front entryway that will provide the ultimate gateway to the project," he said. "While we are coming at it from a temporary use permit perspective, our intent is that this design and this installation ultimately be our permanent entry and signage and landscape design.

"So our intent, although temporary, is to move forward and complete our comprehensive sign plan, as well as a final landscape plan," he continued. "The landscaping will also be at-risk, and we understand that, until we have a landscape plan.

"Our intention is to develop both of those documents so that the signage and the landscape that we put in place here is ultimately the final entry landscape and signage design that will be there long term for the project."

With approval of the temporary use permit, Holyoak said, "we will come back to the city with an at-risk grading plan at the end of this week that will allow us to start grading the dirt (for the sign). The following week, we'll come back with a building permit that will allow us to build, at-risk, the signage and the landscape, provide for that installation and all of the retention and necessary dirt work that needs to happen there. There's probably a couple of weeks worth of grading that needs to happen on site, followed by two or three more weeks of installation of signage and landscape."

During that time, Holyoak continued, "what we would ultimately like to do, as we have discussed with your planning staff and with Public Works, is to identify other portions of the project that we can also begin in an at-risk fashion. 

"That primarily means the mass grading, some of the roads and some of the building sites, that we could reasonably begin that work on as an at-risk part of the project. We'll come back with an additional grading and drainage plans for staff and the Public Works Department to approve.

"We would like to proceed with that work ultimately while the building permit is being considered and reviewed between May and hopefully some time this summer, when at that point we would anticipate having a full building permit and be able to move forward with the installation of all the infrastructure, the final work on the roadways, the pad work under the main part of the mart and then the building itself.

"So our plan really at this point is once we receive permission to move forward this temporary use permit and begin this work, our goal is that work will continuously be happening on site until the project is complete next year. That's our ultimate goal."

Board member Chuck Wright pointed out that Mayor Bob Jackson has spoken of a March start date, yet Holyoak was now talking about May.

"I appreciate the question and I understand the reason for that," Holyoak responded. 

"I don't mean to imply that anybody has misled the mayor. Our intention has always been to get to a permit as early as possible. As I've said, we've had some missteps and some stumbles and some challenges, some that are our fault and some that just arise in the course of business that have led us to revise and rework some of our plans. 

"So, we have discussed that with the mayor and I have apologized personally, as have a number of people on our staff. The information that he had provided to the public has been information provided to him by us and on several occasions we have not been able to meet those expectations."

A man in the audience asked if the monument sign with five-foot-high lettering would be brightly lighted, making it a hazard to night vision along that dark section of highway.

"A final lighting plan has not been designed or approved," Holyoak answered. "The intention is for these signs to be lit, the intention is for the letters themselves to be internally lit. They will be opaque in nature so the light will be relatively subdued. We have not considered the time period the lighting will be on or off. I don't think it will be any brighter than any of the other subdivisions in their entryways."

The final vote was 5-1 for approval, with Beck dissenting. Board member Harold Vangilder had an excused absence.


Library, comm center renovations almost done

(Posted March 12, 2014)


Work on the downtown library expansion and renovating the old Police Department building into a larger communications/dispatching center is almost completed, Mayor Bob Jackson said during his State of the City address last Thursday at The Property Conference Center.

"We're about 30 days away from finishing the expansion to the downtown library and to our dispatch center," he said. "Those are both projects that were made possible through a bond issue approved by the citizens about six or seven years ago. We were able to save money on some of our projects to be able to do these.

"If you've been in the main library, it is busy all the time. I had the opportunity to go look at the expansion. It's going to look really nice when we're done. We are changing the entrance, too, so if you're used to going in on the east side of the building it will be a new location. So,  be surprised."

When the Public Safety Facility was opened on Val Vista Boulevard, the old police building on Marshall Street south of Florence Boulevard was designated to remain as a communications/dispatching center.

"Dispatch is, I think, is one of the unsung heroes of the Police Department," Jackson said.

"Their work environment was cramped in a corner of the old station. The new facility is very, very nice. More spread out, gives them areas they can work. And if you have ever have a need to call the dispatcher, you'd be really glad that they're in a nice work environment and they're happy. They do a great job."


Five projects are key to Casa Grande's future,
mayor tells audience in his State of City address

(Posted March 11, 2014)


Five projects are key to Casa Grande, Mayor Bob Jackson said during his annual State of the City address last Thursday at The Property Conference Center.

"This past fall, our city manager and I sat down with what we think are kind of five key projects in Casa Grande," Jackson said. "And I think moving forward it's important to coordinate those together.

"One of them certainly is the PhoenixMart project."


Scroll down on page for Jackson's PhoenixMart comments.


"We also have a project that George Chasse owns," Jackson continued. "It's on the intersection of I-8 and I-10. He's really hoping he can turn that into a corporate office center."


The City Council has ratified an earlier Planning and Zoning Commission recommendation on boundary changes for the Chasse project, known as Regional Gateway Commerce Center. Scroll far down on page for that P&Z story. 


"And again, those are future projects in Casa Grande that we think will change the complexion of who we are and where we're going," Jackson said.

"We also the Southwest Commerce Park, which is the only rail-served, shovel-ready industrial park in Arizona. It's located just west of the Wal-Mart Distribution Center.

"We have had the Walton Group in. The Walton Group right now owns a lot of property throughout Pinal County, but they own most of the quadrants of what will become the Kortsen Road-I-10 interchange and they're looking at several different development projects to put on that."

The fifth project, Jackson said, is work at the Performance Institute next to Francisco Grande resort. He offered no details, but said, "I know last year (at State of City) we talked some of the things going on out there with the Faldo golf school and the soccer program. We have more things that we're working on out there that I think will kind of, again, help change the complexion, the direction we hope we're going so we don't get overwhelmed by Phoenix and Tucson.

"And what was interesting about the meeting with these five landowners, they all have a common interest. And as we talked around the table, we found that many of them had common contacts, as well, so I think our job moving forward is help these people connect together in a way that they bring quality products and quality jobs into Casa Grande. And they kind of feed on each other in some degree.

"So, we're really confident that the meeting was worthwhile. I think if you talk to the five gentlemen that were there, they would agree that there's a certain amount of synergy by bringing these people in that have property ownership interests in Casa Grande that really want to see us excel over the next 10, 20, 30 years. I think maybe we planted that seed when we did that."

Other work is also being done, Jackson said.

"We are going to continue to be aggressive in economic development," he said. "We are active members in not only Greater Phoenix Economic Council and Access Arizona (formerly named Central Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation), but we have staff that are active in Arizona Economic Development Association, as well.

"And anything we can do to put our community in a better position to compete nationally with other communities is worthwhile."

When economic development prospects come to Casa Grande, Jackson said, they want to see what the downtown looks like.

"We finished the infrastructure downtown," he continued. "If you've not been down there this winter, a lot of activity. I actually had trouble finding a parking spot the other day. But that's a good thing. Lots of small businesses down there. And that's kind of the fabric of the community, so it's really important that we don't forget how we got to where we are. And so I think we will continue to support downtown.

"We just finished and approved a master plan for our Life on Main project, which is the stuff south of the tracks. We are really anxious to start implementing some of the findings in that.

"So hopefully over the next couple of years we'll start seeing some activity to tie all those downtown together."


A complete package of stories outlining the Life on Main project is posted under SPECIAL, above.

City seeks insurance, HR help

(Posted March 10, 2014)


You'll find the full request, with instructions, at

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/04/insurance2014.pdf


Casa Grande is seeking help with insurance brokerage services, tied in with personnel support.

"The city is seeking a firm with experience in bid and renewal negotiation and implementation, cost containment strategies, claims and plan audits, wellness initiatives and all other insurance related 

services for Arizona municipalities and/or other governmental jurisdictions," the announcement says. 

"The successful firm should also have a compliance section in order to assist the city in the implementation of any legal changes, including but not limited to, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

"Finally, we are looking toward future growth and implementation of more automated services to include on-line enrollment, human resources information system, payroll, and time and labor tracking. Therefore, the successful firm should have experience in working together on such implementation and interface solutions."

The announcement says the city now provides access to medical, dental, vision, prescription, Employee Assistance Program, life and voluntary life insurance coverage. 

"We employ an average of 380 fulltime staff, most of whom utilize the insurance plans through the city," it continues. "In addition, we employ seasonal employees that come on and off the active employee list, which often grows our staff to over 500 employees at any given time. 

"The selected proposer will be required to meet as frequently as necessary with Human Resources and any other staff members the city deems necessary, throughout the contract period. Other assistance with benefit management and employee communication may be necessary." 


Interstate 10 remains a key to future growth
in Casa Grande, mayor tells State of the City

(Las Vegas Review-Journal photo)



(Posted March 9, 2014)


Transportation — especially Interstate 10 — remains a challenge as Casa Grande plans its future, Mayor Bob Jackson said during his State of the City address last Thursday at The Property Conference Center.

“We need to widen I-10,” he said. “We are working regionally to try to make that happen. 

“I’m sure we all go to Phoenix once in awhile, and traffic is pretty bad. If you go the other way to Tucson, it's amazing how much difference that third lane makes.

“We will continue to work on trying to get I-10 widened to the north.’

Complete widening of I-10 beyond Casa Grande has been talked about for years, but has always been put off because of disagreements between the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Gila River Indian Community, through which I-10 runs to the north.

An eye must also be kept of the concept of a new Interstate 11, “which will eventually connect just north of Casa Grande with Las Vegas as kind of the first two phases,” Jackson said. “But beyond that, it goes all the way up to Boise, Idaho, and up into Canada and will become the CANAMEX Corridor.

“It’s important, I think, that we not lose focus on what the interstate system was originally built for (beginning during the Eisenhower administration). It was built for freight and for defense purposes. If we could build I-11 and move some of that truck traffic off of I-10 it would make the drive to the Long Beach (Calif.) ports and into Canada much more efficient than going down through I-10 through the urban area of Phoenix.”

Another transportation proposal that could take away from interstate 10 and 11, Jackson continued, “is this thing called the North-South Freeway that runs through Florence, Coolidge, Eloy, connects to the (I-10) freeway at Picacho with Florence Junction, more or less.

“And certainly, there's a lot of interest in that route, because it takes automobile traffic off of I-10, opens up a lot of desert land for development. But I still think that I-10 is the most important road corridor in Arizona and we can't lose sight of the fact that we need to widen that. I hope that North-South Freeway doesn't take away the importance of the I-10 story.”

Jackson said a proposal known as the East-West Corridor Study, being done joint by Casa Grande, Pinal County and the city of Maricopa, is near completion.

“It’s really to start looking at expressway type roadways that will connect from Casa Grande ultimately over to the Buckeye area,” he said. “We've had a couple of hiccups along the way, but I think we'll see that study finish up fairly soon. It's important to identify now, because if development occurs we don't want to have to be putting houses in the middle of a future roadway.”

There is also a proposal for a future interchange at Interstate 8 and Henness Road as part of the Regional Gateway Commerce Center development.

“We just recently at a City Council meeting approved some changes in a subdivision boundary to make sure that we don't build houses and buildings in the way of that proposed interchange,” Jackson said.


The council action was an affirmation of earlier approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission. Scroll down on this page for the earlier P&Z commerce center story and maps.


“We also are working on a project for an interchange at Kortsen Road and I-10,” Jackson said. “We hope to finish that the first part of next year. 

“One of the frequently asked questions I get is, why don't we put an interchange on Cottonwood Lane? The interstate standard is every two miles. So if you look at the way I-10 is structured, we have one at Florence Boulevard, we'll have one at Kortsen Road, we'll have one at McCartney Road, we'll have one at Val Vista. Those are two mile increments. So Kortsen Road is the next interchange, as you can see.

“We're trying to get ourselves to a point where we can identify what it's going to look like, what it's going to cost. So again, when development occurs on that corner -- and it's fairly imminent -- we don't build buildings in the way of what will be the future interchange. We're trying to get out ahead of some of the activities that are going on.”

Casa Grande works with, or belongs to, several planning agencies, including JPAC, the Joint Planning Advisory Committee, which is made up of the Maricopa Association of Government, the Central Arizona Association of Governments and the Pima Association of Governments. The new Metropolitan Planning Organization, which includes Casa Grande, is also a part.

“They are transportation focused, as well,” Jackson said. “Right now, most of their focus is at the border crossings. We need to figure out how make crossing at the border more efficient, it will open up trade throughout Arizona.

“If we look at where Casa Grande is located, we think we can be the link between north-south and east-west linkages, so that border crossing becomes more and more critical.”


Despite declining or flat revenues, Casa Grande
doing great job during tough times, mayor says

(Posted March 7, 2014)


You'll find the city's comprehensive annual finance reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/finance/comprehensive-annual-financial-reports/


Despite flat sales tax income and cuts in highway funding, Mayor Bob Jackson thinks Casa Grande is doing "the best job in Arizona in working our way through the tough economic times."

Jackson outlined some city financial statistics during his State of City address on Thursday at The Property Conference Center.

He said that while going over data from Finance Director Doug Sandstrom he found that in 2008, "which was kind of the end of the building boom," (and the beginning of the national economic collapse) "our total retail sales tax revenue to the city of Casa Grande was $9.6 million. Fast forward to 2013, which is the year we just finished, $9.5 million. So $100,000 less five years later. We have estimated 2014 dollars at about $9.4 million, so again that retail sales tax, in spite of what you read about statewide sales tax, for us it's going down instead of up."

                                            (Story continues below charts)

Jackson said the total sales tax in the city is made up on different categories.

"If you look at the total sales tax, excluding construction sales, over that same five-year period of time we've been kind of stuck at $17.3 million," he said. "I was surprised that between 2008-2013 the different was less than $20,000.

"So we've been working very diligently at trying to make sure that we continue to offer city services with a very level revenue source.

"It becomes a problem, because like all of you that own businesses, our costs go up, be it utility costs, personnel costs, medical costs. And we've managed to do that with a revenue stream that has stayed fairly constant."

In 2008, Jackson said, the city collected a little over $11 million in construction sales tax. Last year, the amount of slightly over $2 million.

One bright spot in the decline of the construction sales tax is that Casa Grande made the decision early on that construction tax money was on-time funds, thus would be spent on one-time projects or equipment. Some other cities, flush with all of the construction money, expanded government, added personnel and made other commitments, only to face severe financial problems and employee layoffs when the money flow stopped.

That one-time money philosophy has continued in Casa Grande, Jackson said, "and that's why that $9 million decrease in construction sales tax has allowed us to continue to operate our services like we always have."

                                        (Story continues below chart)

Jackson said that at this point the city does not plan any cuts in services, adding that, "We're working to try to manage what's in the revenues that we have."

The city maintains a $20-million "rainy day" fund, he said, because bond ratings and interest rates are lower if the city keeps such a fund.

"Right now, we're at the AA (bond rating)," Jackson continued, "which for a community our size is phenomenal. It's been raised, I think, four times in the last five years. It's much like your mortgage: If the bond rating goes down, the interest rate goes up and our cost goes up.

"So we feel very privileged to have been able to keep our bond rating up and keep that $20 million in the bank. Our intention is to keep that money at that level."

One warning Jackson gave is that the state Legislature has a tendency to adopt laws that affect cities on the revenue or expenditure sides.

"One of the ones last year that they looked at," he continued, "was trying to alter where to collect construction sales tax. Instead of collecting it at the location that the facilities are built, they wanted to collect it at the location where the materials were bought, which means that if you're a community that doesn't have a Home Depot or a Lowes, you'd lose that sales tax. We were able to ultimately overcome that. Didn't pass, but I'm sure it will be back again at some point.

"So the caveat I give with all these factors and everything else is, we're assuming that nothing of surprise will come out of the state Legislature that will affect our ability to do our job."


Property tax rate

Even as assessed valuations go down or remain flat, Jackson said, the city will keep the present primary property tax rate at 94.89 cents per hundred dollars.

"For as long as anybody can remember, the city of Casa Grande never had a tax rate above 99 cents," he said. "Legally, we can go up to about $1.08 or $1.09, but the council said, no, we're not going to go above that 99 cent level, we're not going to do that again. Presupposing, but I'm pretty sure the council all agree not to do that with the next budget year, either.

"But that also has cost us about $150,000 last year and it will be a similar amount this year.

"That property tax revenue will come back as assessed valuations go up, but there's about a two-year lag between when property values go up and you finally see it on your tax bill."


Sam's Club opening expected next month

(Posted March 6, 2014)


Forget about the city's stagnant sales tax income, forget about streets that need repairs, forget about everything except -- when is Sam's Club opening?

Mayor Bob Jackson had a brief comment about it during Thursday's annual State of the City luncheon at The Property Conference Center.

"If you've been by there (south of Florence Boulevard east of Interstate 10), it looks like they're pretty much done," Jackson said. "We understand they hope to open the middle of next month."

City officials have consistently said that having a Sam's Club in Casa Grande would stop the sales tax leakage caused when residents drive to Costco or Sam's Club in the Phoenix Valley.

"We need those local tax dollars to stay here," Jackson said, "so hopefully Sam's Club will be a good addition for that."

Although sales tax leakage will be slowed, it's not really known how much additional revenue Sam's Club will bring to the city, but City Manager Jim Thompson told a City Council retreat a year ago that it probably won't be as much as many people originally believed.

It’s a matter of residents having only so much money to spend each month, meaning that some of what would be spent at Sam’s Club would be taken from what would have been spent at other stores.

When city officials first began discussing how much retail sales tax would be generated by Sam’s Club, Thompson said during the retreat, there were comments that, "Oh, Sam’s Club’s coming, Sam’s will probably generate twice as much as Wal-Mart, we can do this, that, we can give raises, we can buy more cars, hire more firemen, more cops."

All these things came to the table, Thompson continued, “and the answer was no! And the reason why we say no is a lot of times it’s an exchange of money. It’s like anything else when something new comes to town.

“You only have so much to spend in your marketplace. If my disposable income is $500 a month that I spent in Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target, whatever the case may be, and you bring in Sam’s Club a good portion of that will be reshuffling that income.”

On the other hand, Thompson said, additional retail sales tax will be brought in from those families that now drive to the Phoenix area to buy in bulk from a Sam’s Club or Costco.

“So maybe we retain that in town, so maybe there’s some gain there,” he said.

“The other thing that may happen is when you walk into Wal-Mart and you usually spend $100, well, now you walk into Sam’s Club and you’re buying bulk so maybe you spend $150 or $200. But that means you’re going to have to cut something else. It’s always that you only have so much to spend on.”

Another important thing a Sam’s Club would do for Casa Grande, Thompson said, is that “it does attract people into the community much the same as Costco. People from outside the city who maybe jump in their car to drive to Costco or Sam’s Club in the Valley are now going to drive into Casa Grande. So it is a destination attraction, like the mall.

“They think that it will help the mall in sales as well, which it will. More people coming off the interstate and other visibilities.”



PhoenixMart project moving along, mayor says

(Posted March 6, 2014)


PhoenixMart information, although some is outdated, is available at

http://phoenixmart.com/


Companies submitting proposals for PhoenixMart infrastructure work are at

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/04/SubmittalsPhxMartRFQ.pdf


PhoenixMart, that much talked about 1.7-million-square-foot international products showcase on 500-plus acres just north of Florence Boulevard between Overfield and Toltec Buttes roads, is still moving along, Mayor Bob Jackson said Thursday.

Jackson, speaking at the annual State of the City luncheon at The Property Conference Center, said that because of the scale of the project -- "huge, huge" -- there have been several obstacles to overcome.

"It's probably one of the biggest we've ever seen in Casa Grande," he continued. "The current estimate is about $150 million for the PhoenixMart building itself.

"There are an array of infrastructure issues. All of those complications means that it's tough to get all the pieces together and get it going in a timely fashion. I think a lot of people get frustrated about that. But it is moving forward."

AZ Sourcing, the parent company, broke ground last November.

PhoenixMart comes before the Board of Adjustment next Tuesday for a temporary use permit for monument signs at the entrance.

"They hope to transition from that some time in the second quarter of 2014 to start putting in on-site roads and utilities," Jackson said. "And then they hope to start the building shortly after that. They're still looking at a completion date of November of 2015."

Despite the complications, Jackson continued, "I think that one of the cautions we try to give a lot of people that we've talked to is they're a huge employer and it's a huge feather in the cap of Casa Grande. Depending upon which economic study you look at, right now they're talking about employing about 8,000 people."

Where will they come from?

"I think realistically we'll have people from the East Valley and from north Tucson will drive in to take some of those jobs, as well as well as all of the local people here," Jackson said.

In the meantime, he continued, "They are working diligently. We are working through infrastructure issues with them. I think we're very close to coming up with a sewer agreement with them. My caution is, be patient, they will be here."

Because it will be mainly a showroom operation for products shipped from elsewhere, there won't be much sales tax coming to the city. Jackson said property tax money won't be seen for about three years after the opening.

"I do think the advantage is the payroll it will generate," he said. "Again -- and I don't want to harp about it -- but if we put more people to work, they have more money to spend and that will drive secondary issues like restaurants and retail and things like that."

There continues to be confusion about the extent of the project, Jackson said.

"PhoenixMart is misunderstood in a lot of quarters," he continued. "The PhoenixMart building is one piece of a very large project. A few other components were approved as part of the initial phase one project. One is a hotel and one is initially an apartment complex on the west side of the building.

"Both of those projects are also moving forward and I think the expectation is to have the hotel finished at about the same time that the PhoenixMart building itself is finished so it will be a place where international buyers can stay on site and go in and look at the products that are available in Phoenix Mart."

The final words from Jackson:

"They are coming, they are going to get here, just be patient, don't expect them to change everything overnight."


City setting on-call professional services list
    -- The background, requirements sheet HERE

Taxiway consultant sought

(Posted March 5, 2014)





The taxiway has areas of severe cracking and other problems.






You’ll find the complete request for proposals at:

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/04/AirportTaxiway2014.pdf


Casa Grande is seeking an aviation consultant to oversee engineering for reconstructing Taxiway E at the city airport.

The person or company selected with be involved with preliminary and design phases for work on the 30-foot-wide strip and could be retained for the bidding, negotiations and construction phases.

According to the city’s announcement, a pavement assessment found that the taxiway consists of one section with low- and medium- severity block cracking recorded throughout. The low-severity cracking was noted in unsealed condition and the medium-severity cracking was identified when the unsealed crack widths were greater than one-fourth inch. An isolated area of low-severity rutting was also observed.”

The city’s airport capital improvement program calls for rehabilitation of the taxiway, involving milling and replacing the pavement, at an estimated cost of $270,000. A grant from the aeronautics department of the Arizona Department of Transportation has been received for design of the work.

Proposals are due by March 21.

In addition to general aviation activities, the airport serves and supports emergency medical operations and jet fuel sales.


City seeking professional fire, building codes
consultant to oversee PhoenixMart planning

(Posted Feb. 26, 2014)


You'll find the complete request for qualifications HERE 

The list of bidders submitting applications is HERE


Casa Grande is seeking a professional fire and building code consultant to be involved with designing the proposed 1.7 million square feet Phoenix Mart project.

Fire safety is is prime concern because the site, north of Florence Boulevard east of Overfield and Signals Peak roads, is beyond recommended response time for firefighting equipment.

During earlier PhoenixMart discussions, Fire Chief Scott Miller presented a memo pointing out that the closest fire station is more than five miles away, at Ninth Street and Peart Road. 

Depending upon traffic conditions, Miller wrote, it would take a fire engine from Ninth and Peart between nine to 11 minutes to reach Phoenix Mart. If an engine had to respond from the downtown station or Station Four on East McCartney Road, he added, another three to four minutes would be required.

Longer response times, Miller wrote, put areas into a category of higher insurance costs and  create problems for people needing emergency medical attention.

Eventually, the city will need a fire station in the area east of Interstate 10, Miller wrote.

“A financial commitment was made by the City Council to provide Fire Department infrastructure to protect this business initially and at full buildout with the one or two 13-story hotels and a water park,” he continued. “Included in this initial infrastructure would be a new fire station on the east side of I-10, manpower to staff this facility and a fire truck. Once a 13-story high rise hotel opens at PhoenixMart a fully staffed ladder company would also be needed at that fire station.”

Miller estimated the eventual costs to taxpayers to be $4.5 million for the station, $750,000 for a fire engine with equipment, $1.5 million for a ladder truck and $2.2 million recurring costs for personnel.

The request for qualifications says PhoenixMart would be a retail sourcing center facility that is expected to include space for 1,600-plus vendors located in a building of approximately 1.7 million square feet. The building is proposed as one-story with a mezzanine and an estimated occupancy of approximately 22,000.

The request says the request is for "professional fire and building code consulting services relating to the preparation of a performance-based design for the construction of a proposed Type 1 construction building."

Type 1 buildings are described as primarily concrete and steel framework, able to better resist fires.

"The scope of work consists of the tasks necessary to develop acceptable criteria for the design of a safe building," the request says. "Development and evaluation of design criteria to determine what a tenable environment for the evacuation of occupants will be and establish minimum requirements for the design, installation and testing of smoke control systems to meet the need. 

"The criteria and requirements shall be generally accepted and based on well-established principles of engineering and relevant standards, including but not limited to National Fire Protection Association standards for smoke control and the Society of Fire Protection Engineers Handbook for Fire Protection Engineering.

"The goal of the criteria is to result in a performance-based design and construction documents with a design that demonstrates compliance with the intent of the fire and building codes."


Morgan earns 'Chief Fire Officer' designation

(Posted Feb. 25, 2014)


The city issued this press release today:


Casa Grande Assistant Fire Chief James Morgan has successfully completed the process that awards him the professional designation of “Chief Fire Officer” (CFO).  

The Commission on Professional Credentialing (CPC) met earlier this month to officially confer the designation upon Chief Morgan. Morgan is one of only 956 CFO’s worldwide.

The CPC awards the CFO designation only after an individual successfully meets all of the organization’s stringent criteria. The process includes an assessment of the applicant’s education, experience, professional development, technical competencies, contributions to the profession, and community involvement. The CFO designation program uses a comprehensive peer review model to evaluate candidates seeking the credential.

“Chief Morgan has a rich knowledge of the emergency services profession and has far surpassed critical core competencies for personnel serving in senior fire officer positions,” noted the CPC.

Morgan has directed and coordinated the efforts of firefighting divisions, emergency services, and related medical services for more than 20 years. In his public safety career, he has served as firefighter, captain, battalion chief and flight paramedic. He began his career as a volunteer reserve firefighter in 1979 for the Apache Junction Fire District.

He has been sought-after for his experience and expertise in fire science and emergency management by a number of organizations. Morgan has directed activities of instructors and training personnel, prepared course offerings, and coordinated training logistics for the Arizona Fire District Association, Center for Domestic Preparedness, Arizona Department of Emergency Management and Central Arizona College.

Casa Grande Fire Chief Scott Miller said, “The CFO designation demonstrates Chief Morgan’s commitment to excellence in fire and emergency management.  We’re proud of his accomplishments and honored to have him be part of our management team.”

Morgan has an associate’s degree from Rio Salado College, a bachelor’s degree from Northern Arizona University, and a Master of Applied Science in Fire Administration from Arizona State University.  He will graduate from the Executive Fire Officer Program through the National Fire Academy this year.

Additionally, he is a member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Arizona Fire Chiefs Association, and Fire Chief Association of Pinal County.  Morgan has been a member of the City of Casa Grande Fire Department for seven years.

The Commission on Professional Credentialing, an entity of the Center of Public Safety Excellence, Inc., (CPSE) administers the CFO Designation Program.  The CPC consists of individuals from academia, federal and local government, and the fire and emergency medical services profession.  To learn more about CPC, visit www.publicsafetyexcellence.org.


City moves ahead on pay study

(Posted Feb. 21, 2014)


You'll find the full request for quotes HERE

The list of companies responding is HERE


Casa Grande is moving forward with a comprehensive study of city employee pay rates.

An internet posting asks for quotes for a compensation study, including review of the current pay schedules.

In determining pay rates, the city compares wages in other cities and for comparable jobs in private industry.

"The public and private employment-competitive employers currently used for market comparisons will be reviewed and recommendations for deletions and/or additions will be made as appropriate," the request says.

"Classifications currently used as benchmarks will be reviewed and recommendations for deletions and/or additions will be made as appropriate.

"After the market entities are finalized and the benchmark classifications are confirmed, the consultant will survey the selected entities to compare compensation data. The consultant will review, analyze and compile the survey data."

That consultant will recommend classification of pay ranges based on both outside market competitiveness and equity within the city.

"The consultant will also identify the appropriateness of other key compensation practices such as executive compensation, shift differentials, special assignment pay, skill pay, etc., and make recommendations for their use by the city," the request says.

The deadline for consultant responses is March 3.


City seeks professional engineering services
for reconstruction project on Thornton Road

(Posted Feb. 20, 2014)


You'll find the full request document HERE


Casa Grande has taken the first step toward reconstruction of part of Thornton Road, issuing a request for qualifications for professional engineering services.

The project calls for full reconstruction of Thornton was Gila Bend Highway north to Cottonwood Lane. Drainage improvements are included.

The request says the reconstruction will be done in two phases. The first is a half mile from Gila Bend Highway north to the railroad crossing. The second phase is from the rail crossing to Cottonwood Lane.

Separate plans and provisions are required for each phase.

The request response deadline is March 18.


Lopez honored upon retirement

  Ernest Lopez, right, receives an appreciation plaque from Mayor Bob Jackson

(Posted Feb. 18, 2014)


Ernest Lopez was recognized Tuesday night by the City Council upon retirement after more than 32 years of service, first with the Casa Grande Public Works Department and then the Fire Department.

"He's leaving with 20 years of service in the Fire Department, but when he first came he actually worked in Public Works," Mayor Bob Jackson said, adding with a smile, "I think what happened, Ernie, is the work got too hard for you."

Jackson said, "I was lucky enough to have Ernie be one of my employees for the first few years that I was here (as Pubic Works director). He was a great employee and I think I can say for the Fire Department, whose representatives are here today, you've been a great employee for them, as well.

"I think we're always sorry to see retirees retire, but on the other hand we're happy because you're still young enough you can go out and enjoy yourself. And we certainly wish you a long and fruitful retirement."

Lopez was presented with a plaque marking his service from Oct. 13, 1981, to Feb. 7, 2014, and a digital television as a retirement gift.

"And again, Ernie, we really appreciate your years of service to the city," Jackson said, "and while we're sorry to see you go, we wish you well in your retirement and I hope it lasts a long, long time."

Lopez said, "I just want to say thank you, mayor, for the opportunity to come up here. And all the council, thank you."


$6,000 state grant moves Life on Main project
historic railroad plaza one step closer to reality

(Posted Feb. 12, 2014)


Scroll down in SPECIAL page, above, for a package of stories outlining 

the entire Life on Main redevelopment concept.


A $6,000 community catalyst grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts will go toward the initial costs of a Railroad Art Plaza on Washington Street south of the railroad tracks.

That redevelopment is known as Life on Main and has been in the process for a couple of years, envisioning restoring the old Casa Grande Hotel and Shonessy House, renovating the park and eventually having shops and business areas.

Catalyst grants support partnerships between arts and non arts organizations in small and rural Arizona communities. The Casa Grande Arts and Humanities Commission has partnered with Casa Grande Main Street "to envision constructing a public plaza to commemorate the railroad’s history and impact the railroad had and continues to have on our community, while at the same time attracting more visitors and merchants to our city and downtown area," the staff report for the agenda item at the last City Council meeting says.

"The purpose of the grant  is to develop a scope of work for the 'call to artist' to create a conceptual design and plans for the future Railroad Art Plaza, a project of the Arts and  Humanities Commission listed in their Sixth Municipal Arts Five Year Plan (2013-2017). Through the community catalyst grant, the artist to be commission will develop the project design concept and plan of the railroad art plaza based on the elements and culture that were woven together to make the community."

The city owns about 15 acres in the area, which it wants to develop into a business park and other attractions to both draw residents and unite south of the tracks with the downtown shopping areas.

“Central to the proposed plan is preserving the Casa Grande Hotel and Shonessy House while enhancing these historic structures with a flexible, active plaza with space for art fairs and farmers markets,” an earlier city announcement said. 

“Other life enhancing ideas to the area include  expanding Elliot Park to include neighborhood amenities such as a dog park and a ramada for gathering, grilling and neighborhood events; a lively, mixed-use neighborhood with opportunity for outdoor cafés intermixed with shops, retail and offices, and approximately 30,000 square feet of space for light-industry and manufacturing.

“Concept plans also include a district gateway arch feature to welcome people to the neighborhood and a pedestrian bridge spanning the railroad tracks along East Main Street near Top Bottom Alley that connects the area to the historic downtown business district.”

The railroad plaza would be along Washington Street between the old hotel and the Shonessy House, Planning and Development Director Paul Tice told the council.

At an earlier Life on Main orientation meeting, Tice said, “The thing that’s pretty exciting to me about the plan is the concept of creating this historic plaza between the Shonessy House and the Casa Grande Hotel that really ties them all together.” 

“There’s the existing Washington Street between the two structures. The idea is to vacate that road in that one block between Main Avenue and First Avenue and to create a historic plaza that can be used as a civic space, a gathering space that really just starts to tie those two historic buildings together.

“The other design element in the historic plaza is a pedestrian overpass that starts on the north side of Main Street, really in the alignment of an old road that was platted as Top and Bottom Street (now Washington Street). It looks like an alley today, but it’s actually platted historically and named historically in the 1800s as Top and Bottom Street.

“So it would be an extension of Top and Bottom Street with a pedestrian overpass that went over Main Street, went over the railroad tracks, went over Main Avenue and came down at this historic plaza. It would be sort of the Top and Bottom historic plaza, if you will, with a pedestrian connection, another good way to connect this area back to the downtown area.

“And again, this part of the plan would have to be publicly funded by the city, again using probably grants, CIP, other funding sources that we might be able to identify, but certainly something that would have to be funded publicly and then we could lease space in the Shonessy House, lease space in the Casa Grande Hotel to private users that were appropriate for those historic structures.”


Pinal County home prices rise 17 percent

(Posted Feb. 12, 2014)


The Pinal County Assessor's Office issued this announcement today:


For Immediate Release                                 

Contact: John Ellinwood (520) 866-6367 



Home Prices increase by double digits in 2013

 

The average purchase price for a single family residence in Pinal County was $168,123 in 2013, an increase of 17 percent over 2012. The median value for last year went up 18 percent from 2012, to $149,000. 

The average size for a home sold in each year was very similar at 1,986 square feet in 2012 and 1,981 square feet in 2013.

While prices rose, the volume of transactions was almost identical at 8,267 sales in 2012 and 8,247 for 2013. The top sale in the county was a 4,200-square-foot home in the Superstitions Mountain community, which sold for $1,100,000 in March of last year.

"The strong recovery in prices has increased the market value for most homeowners," stated Assessor Douglas Wolf.  "It will also be reflected in the 2015 property valuation notices, which will be mailed out next week,"

For more information about the Assessor's Office or the notice of value mailing and the appeal process, go to www.pinalcountyaz.org/assessor.


Captains hired for Police Department





Todd Hanley, left, and J.R. Parrow have been hired as police captains.

(Posted Feb. 7, 2014)


Two captains have been hired for the Casa Grande Police Department, part of a reorganization step recommended by a management survey and supported by Chief Johnny Cervantes.

Background sheets on the two men were distributed Thursday inside the Police Department.

The captains are Todd Hanley, a Florence native and 20-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department, and J.R. Parrow, a retired Scottsdale police supervisor who later entered corporate security work.


(See following story for background on the reorganization)


The background sheets say:


Todd Hanley


Todd Hanley is a 20-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department and is currently serving as the Phoenix Police Department’s subject matter expert in case management and investigations. 

He has served in the Maryvale and South Mountain Precinct Patrol Bureaus, General Investigations, Sex Crimes, Auto Theft, Violent Crimes, Street Crimes, Undercover Special Projects, Neighborhood Enforcement Team, Community Action, as well as the advanced training unit at the Phoenix Regional Police Academy (ALEA). 

He was most recently chosen by Phoenix PD to act as a core team member in the $32 million  Records Management System Selection and Implementation Team, where he served as the investigations/case management lead and training lead, responsible for business process design and curriculum development as well as delivery of RMS training to all 4,000 employees. 

As a founder of Sun Devil Family Charities, he has grown the community focused all-volunteer charitable organization to over 14 board members consisting of diverse professionals. Together they have held over 30 events raising in excess of $200,000. For over 10 years he has served as a management consultant for the Phoenix Open PGA Golf Tourney and has held the position of the Bird’s Nest Director of Operations. He recently also began coordinating NFL AZ Cardinals game day operations for the University of Phoenix Stadium as a management consultant for a large metropolitan event management company responsible for traffic ingress/egress and parking. He recently designed the company’s employee orientation and employee development/training programs. 

Todd’s leadership and community involvement includes coaching high school football for the last six years at Seton Catholic Preparatory High School. In his tenure he incorporated a successful character and leadership program for team members and was fortunate enough to be the defensive coordinator of the 2012 State Champions. 

He is originally from Florence and graduated from Florence High School and attended Northern Arizona University where he holds a bachelor of science in education with an emphasis on law enforcement career and technical education. He has a 27-year old stepson and 14-year-old daughter with his wife, Sonia, of 17 years. 


 

J.R. Parrow


J.R.’s experiences in law enforcement included service as an field training officer, crime scene officer, honor guard member, emergency vehicle operations instructor and defensive tactics instructor. He was instrumental in the development of Scottsdale PD’s SWAT program. 

A graduate of SWAT basic, J.R. went on to serve with SWAT in a support role during his time in the K9 unit. He spent over 12 years with K9 as both a handler and later as a team sergeant where he was active on both a regional and national level in developing progressive canine practices for law enforcement. He has served as a canine officer survival instructor and a trial judge for police K9 competitions. 

Additionally, J.R. served on the chief’s advisory board that succeeded in the getting the police department through the accreditation process from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. He was Scottsdale PD’s primary law enforcement ethics instructor, among a list of other police curriculum taught over the years. As a police lieutenant he went on to spearhead significant police community relations initiatives in the downtown district up until his retirement.

After retiring from the Scottsdale Police Department, the very next week, J.R. entered the corporate sector and took over as a director of security for Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc.  While in this role, J.R. implemented a host of new policies and procedures that aligned the hotel with enhanced reporting and surveillance technology. Additionally, he coordinated assessment efforts with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to reduce hotel’s liabilities from both domestic and foreign terrorism. His efforts led to recognition by both federal agencies as an exemplary hospitality partner in threat analysis and reduction. 

J.R. holds associate and bachelor degrees in criminal justice from Wayland Baptist University,  where he currently attends as a graduate student majoring in organizational leadership. He and his wife, Heidi, also retired law enforcement, have two grown children – a son serving in the U.S. Army and a daughter in the insurance industry.

Behind the reorganization, hirings ...

(Posted Feb. 7, 2014)


The hiring of two captains for the Police Department is part of a reorganization that sees the former commander positions changed to lieutenant.

The three division commanders to be affected were Scott Sjerven in Special Operations, Kent Horn in Patrol and Mike Keck in Criminal Investigations. Keck retired last month.

Last August, the initial announcement said, “Staff recommends creating two new police captain positions and reclassify the positions of police commander to lieutenant as part of a departmental reorganization.

“The reorganization would allow for more proactive supervision during peak activity times, the ability to better manage critical incidents, and the ability to enhance proactive crime reduction strategies to address problem areas.”

When the approval came during a City Council meeting last August, Mayor Bob Jackson said part of the reorganization request came from a report given to the city near the end of 2010 by the ICMA Center for Public Safety, which is part of the International City/County Management Association. The city had hired ICMA to do the survey of the Police Department.

Jackson asked Police Chief Johnny Cervantes, hired late last March to replace Chief Bob Huddleston, for comments on the report.

“One of the advantages that I had coming in here was that ICMA report,” Cervantes said.

“One of the things that they recommended was that currently we have three commander positions. One of the things they talk about in that report was that the third position didn’t really have enough (duties) to support that, there wasn’t enough direct reports to support that third position and they recommended going down to two.”

From the report

That section of the ICMA report says:

Eliminate the position Commander – Special Operations

This position can be eliminated. Compared to other commander duties in the CGPD, this position is clearly the least demanding. With fewer than 15 direct reports, this position does not require a commander. The duties and responsibilities of special operations in the CGPD can be handled by a sergeant. The sergeant – Special Operations can be placed under the command of the Patrol Division commander.

According to the Police Department’s website:

“The Special Operations Division was formed July 2006 and is now the fourth division of the Police Department. Cmdr. Scott Sjerven (a sworn police officer) is the commander of this division. Special Operations encompasses several areas of the Police Department’s operation, to include Volunteer Services, Animal Control, School Resource Officers, Crime Prevention, Graffiti, alarms, community traffic unit, Crime Free Multi-Housing, Neighborhood Watch and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT).”

The other divisions are Communications, headed by civilian Mike Brashier (that division was not included in the chief’s request); Patrol, headed by Cmdr. Kent Horn, and Criminal Investigations, headed by Mike Keck. Horn and Keck are sworn police officers.

Cervantes continued that, “So one of the things I did do was take some observations and take a look at those during my initial three months here. And I concur with that. I think that we can do with just two command positions. And that would entail one commander (captain) position for Investigations and one for Patrol operations. That was part of the ICMA recommendations.”

Councilman Ralph Varela asked Cervantes how the two captain positions would fit into the chief’s goals for the department.

“Let me start with one of the things that I think is critical to this reorganization – and that’s the lieutenant positions,” Cervantes answered.

“When it comes to critical incidents, and I’ll give you a perfect example … a few weeks ago we responded to an area of the city where a suicide occurred. We were trying to investigate that. Well, in trying to investigate that, a crowd formed, so there was some issues with the crowd and our ability to do what we needed to do.

“Fortunately, we had our command staff that did respond and I think the outcome of that was a result of our command staff being there to make those high level decisions during critical incidents, because this certainly could have turned for the worst and somebody could have gotten hurt if an issue was to explode.

“Well, that was daytime. Right now, we don’t have that command level for the weekends or the nighttime hours.

“That doesn’t mean that the first-line supervisors, the corporals, are not doing a good job. They are doing a good job, but it just takes a different set of eyes when you’re trying to manage situations like critical incidents, especially the complex ones where you’re talking about a lot of people, you’re taking about organizations are responding from other communities to assist us. So it takes a lot of coordination, and the lieutenant level positions will allow us to do that, especially during the night and the weekend.”

Varela asked how department communication with the lieutenants would be handled.

“Well, we’re still going to have a communication level,” Cervantes responded, “because, again, they’re the highest level of supervision during the weekends and nighttime hours. So we just need to make sure that they’re included in the meetings that we have, that we have a lengthy basis to exchange that communication level information.”

Councilwoman Fitzgibbons asked who the two captains would report to, what their duties would be and how their hiring would affect the efficiency of the department.

Cervantes replied that, “Right now, the first-line supervisors, the sergeants, have a lot of extra responsibilities,” he said. “That leaves them very little time to manage during some of the critical incidents. Again, the critical incidents could be very complex. The same with crime reduction strategy can be very complex.

“So with those extra responsibilities, it’s hard to do proactive supervision. What the lieutenant level does is alleviate some of those administrative responsibilities, action plans for example.

“If there’s a problem in the community that comes out of our crime predictive computer process, then I need somebody that’s going to take on active solutions and strategies to address those crime problems.

“Well, sergeants with those additional responsibilities have a difficult time to do it. They can do it, but it’s difficult. The lieutenant level would take on, absorb some of the responsibilities. Again, especially for the peak times, that’s where it’s really critical. Daytime, yeah, we have some of the resources to come out to help. It’s at the nighttime hours, during busy peak times where you don’t have that additional supervision to alleviate some of those responsibilities.

“And so to your question, yeah, I do think it’s going to alleviate and create some more efficiencies in that regard.

“And again, our number one priority is crime reduction strategies. In transitioning, you asked me what the vision was. I want to take this organization to where instead of where we’re responding to crime, we’re being proactive with crime. And again, these positions will allow us to do that, because it takes that burden off the sergeants so they can supervise, the lieutenants can get action items and then move forward on that. I think it will do exactly just that.”

City Manager Thompson said the new hires will be on an at-will employment probationary period for “maybe six months or one year, just depends on the type of position and the level of training or on the job training that we do according to that.”

Addressing the council as a whole,

Cervantes said, “One of my biggest challenges coming in here was determining how to approach any change. It’s important to embrace the historical aspects of any organization in a community. And the same thing with the Police Department. It’s important to embrace that.

“It was a tough position to be in, coming into a very proud organization and implementing this kind of change. I knew it was going to be a big change. I don’t take it lightly, and I think it’s the right change for the future of this organization.

“I think it’s good to have that one foot in the past and embrace the good parts about it, but at some point in time you have to turn around to face the future. And I think this helps us face the future, and I think this is the right direction.

“I think this is exactly what this is doing, trying to embrace the good things about the culture and the good things about the structure, but at some point in time we have to bring that around, we have to bring that other foot around. And I’m very confident that we’re going to be just that and this is going to help us do just that.”


Hexel expansion building approved

(Posted Feb. 7, 2014)


Approval of a major site plan to add a 21,030-square-foot manufacturing building at Hexel Corp. comes with a requirement that all water from storms be retained on the site rather than spilling onto North VIP Boulevard.

The approval Thursday night by the Planning and Zoning Commission also allows a paved 116-stall employee parking lot on the property at 1214 W. Gila Bend Highway and requires sidewalks along the VIP frontage.

"There are no sidewalks up and down VIP Boulevard," City Planner Keith Newman told the commission. "This is the first step. Over time, all sidewalk gaps along VIP Boulevard will be filled in, done a little bit at a time, upon development of all vacant properties and when existing businesses come in for renovations."


You'll find the complete agenda at 

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/

Click on Staff Reports for Hexel document


Most of the discussion involved the stormwater retention. 

"The situation is that the existing development on site today does not currently retain existing stormwater flows," Newman said. "All these stormwater flows run off of the site and into VIP Boulevard. The code requires that when the existing development is expanded all stormwater flows must be retained on the site."

Commission member Fred Tucker said the stormwater flooding is not confined to Hexel, noting that when there is heavy rain water flows north on VIP Boulevard.

"Literally, property owners have built seeming pretty much dams up there because if they don't, water's going to flood into the properties," he said.

Tucker asked how much of that flooding problem is created by Hexel not having on-site retention and how much the required basins there would ease the problem.

There was no clear answer.

Duane Eitel, the city's traffic engineer, said there are drainage problems in the area, but believes the retention basins would meet city requirements.

"It will help the system there, but I don't know the percentage of improvement," he said. "There will be some."

Planning and Development Director Paul Tice said part of the problem is that many of the properties in the area were building before the drainage rules were changed to require all water be retained on site.

Once the Hexel basins are constructed, he said, "whatever water this property is contributing to VIP will stop being contributed to VIP.  The VIP flooding that might be there won't go away, but it will be lessened to a certain extent."

Commission member Mike Henderson said, "That entire street is fortified on almost every lot by berms and things to keep the water out. I've never seen it flood, but clearly there are issues there that Duane referred to. Every lot has some kind of protection."

Ole Solberg, a Casa Grande professional engineer representing Hexel, said the VIP runoff is a concern to the company, which has been working with the city on finding a solution.

"We will be retaining more water than currently being discharged from the site," he said. "There will be less. How much, I'd be hard pressed to say but from this particular site it will be less being discharged than currently. The code does allow a little runoff -- you can't do it 100 percent -- but we will retain what the city code requires and the city engineer requires."

Solberg said the addition of 116 parking spaces does not mean that Hexel is hiring a lot of new employees. It's a matter of parking difficulties at the site.

"Hexel has a lot of work shifts going on," he said. "I won't quite say it's like Wal-Mart at Christmas shopping time trying to find a parking spot, but shift changes get kind of fun, you might say. This is going to allow them to provide all the employees with parking, safe parking, and allow other little modification externals to the plant they have."

Commission approval was unanimous, with member Brett Benedict on an excused absence.


Manhole repairs almost completed

(Posted Feb. 6, 2014)


Scroll down page for earlier story on sewers, manholes


Emergency work to replace eight sewer manholes that were in danger of collapsing is almost finished, the City Council was told during Monday's meeting.

The manholes, along the railroad tracks between North Thornton Road and West Cottonwood Lane, were found to have been in poor condition because of corrosion from hydrogen sulfide created in the sewer lines. 

Recent traffic by heavy farming equipment and heavy Salt River Project vehicles using during work on a power line is believed to have worsened the condition, causing failures of the manholes, the staff report said.

Councilman Matt Herman asked if the problem was found during preventative maintenance work.

Public Works Director Kevin Louis responded that, "During our inspections of our sewer lines, we did find this section where we have eight manholes that had deteriorated to a point where they were really close to collapsing. And because of the adjacency next to the railroad tracks and the importance of that line and our ability not to divert those flows, we decided to move forward with these repairs.

"Fortunately, we had a contractor, SoCal Excavating, who we've done work with in the past and will continue to work in the future. We got good prices from them ($64,450 total) to get this work done and actually all but one manhole has been replaced, so the project is moving forward and should be finished up next week."

Herman commended the Public Works Department for catching the issue before a collapse.

"Well, I'm glad it wasn't 80 instead of eight," Louis responded.

"We try to be as proactive as we can. Obviously, we had to react on this situation."

Hydrogen sulfide builds up in sewer lines and if not cleaned out during maintenance causes corrosion and other problems.

"Some of the levels that we've experienced throughout our system is the reason why we've gone forward with the aggressive cleaning program that we initiated," Louis said. "It just deteriorates those lines.

"The manholes were actually coated in the past, so it almost masked the amount of deterioration that was there. Maybe way back when when they did those, the sealer on the inside, they probably should have looked a little closer and they probably would have found a lot more damage. It was probably not the right treatment at that time."


New traffic signals on Pinal creating 
confusion, city posts instructional video

(Posted Feb. 4, 2014)


You'll find the city's video on how the new signals work at

http://youtu.be/YhrZc7uRMHo


An ADOT instructional flyer is HERE


Another ADOT instruction sheet is HERE




What's known as a pedestrian hybrid beacon has been installed at the San Carlos Trail near Casa Grande Middle School as part of the Pinal Avenue pavement improvements by the Arizona Department of Transportation.

The signal, now operating, is a new system -- and confusing to many.

As Councilman Karl Montoya said during Monday night's City Council meeting, "It would be great to see a public service announcement on what the lights actually mean. They go from yellow to solid red to blinking red, and everybody kind of looks at each other, like what do we do now? 

"So it would be good to just kind of get that word out there and just kind of say, hey, let's all get on the same pages, what the lights mean and go from there."

Good point, Mayor Bob Jackson replied.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the city posted a video on its Facebook page, featuring Jerry Greenfield, the ADOT project manager, explaining how the roadway signals and pedestrian signals work.

The first step for pedestrians is to push the "Cross" button as is done on a normal crosswalk signal.

"When you push the button, yellow lights will start flashing (at Pinal traffic) and that'll signalize to the traffic that someone is ready to cross the roadway," Greenfield said. "After that, the lights will go to a solid yellow and then to solid red, and that will tell traffic that they need to come to a complete stop."

At that point, the pedestrian lighted wait/walk signal will show a white outline of a man, he continued, adding, "That signalizes the pedestrian that it's safe to cross, but they should always double check to make sure traffic is stopped and then go ahead and proceed through the crosswalk.

"As they go through, they'll see a red hand pop up (on the walk sign) counting down from 15 and that just lets them know how much time they have left to get across the roadway safely."

Greenfield said the traffic lights will then start flashing red, meaning that if there are no pedestrians in the crossing the traffic may then move through.

White outline is to start crossing; red numbers show seconds left.


Pine-Sol just won't cut it for cleaning
Casa Grande's miles of sewer piping

(Posted Feb. 2, 2014)


The memo on the manhole failures is HERE


Maps of the sewer cleaning areas are HERE


Sewer cleaning staff report is HERE



Sorry, Pine-Sol.

Your product you say has been "cleaning what stinks since 1929" won't cut it when it comes to Casa Grande's sewer pipes, both for smell and causes of corrosion.

Besides, with Casa Grande having 260 miles of sewer, 4,500 manholes and nine lift stations it would take truckloads of your product and umpteen hours of time to trickle it down the openings.

The city has opted to hire Ancon for this year's sewer cleaning and has posted a request for qualifications for contractors to rehabilitate manholes.

The cleaning and rehabilitation of manholes is a must for the city, shown by a $62,450 emergency spending agenda item for Monday night's City Council meeting to replace eight of them along the railroad tracks between Thornton Road and Cottonwood Lane. They have failed, the staff report says, because of hydrogen sulfide corrosion and stress caused by heavy farming equipment and Salt River Project equipment used in installing a power line.

The sewer line cleaning, to begin in early March for about six months, will cover 138,000 linear feet of line at a cost of $59,604. That's a bit more than 26 miles, or if you're a horse racing fan a bit more than 200 furlongs.

(TRIVIA: The furlong wasn't always just an arcane unit of measure that horseracing fans gabbed about; it once had significance as the length of the furrow a team of oxen could plow in a day. In 1592, the English Parliament set about determining the length of the mile and decided that each one should be made up of eight furlongs. Since a furlong was 660 feet, we ended up with a 5,280-foot mile.)

Anyway, back to sewers.

The total amount of the contract is up to $142,000, The staff report says that allows for cleaning the 138,175 linear feet of pipeline "and approximately 225,000 linear feet of additional gravity sewers can be cleaned under this project within the remaining budget available for this project. This additional work shall be evaluated and prioritized by the Public Works Department as funding allows."

The importance of cleaning, the staff report says, is that it will reduce hydrogen sulfide (H2S) levels, both in the lines and at the sewage treatment plant.

"This reduction in H2S levels will reduce the adverse impact that high concentrations of H2S can have on the collection system (pipelines, manholes, and lift stations) as well as the odor control system equipment at the plant," it says. "It will also help reduce the complaints from residents regarding sewer odors throughout the city. We are using a contractor for the large diameter sewer as the city does not have the proper equipment to do this work at this time."

The City Council has previously been told that the equipment for cleaning the large lines is so expensive that it is not cost effective to buy it.

That hydrogen sulfide in the lines not only creates odors, but does nasty stuff to the manholes. The H2S, helped by age and stormwater flow, weakens the structure.

That was a leading cause of the failures of the eight manholes along the railroad tracks, leading to the $62,450 repair bill on Monday's City Council agenda.

A memo from city engineer Terrence McKeon explains it this way:

"Recently it was discovered that manholes on the 18-inch PVC sewer line which runs parallel to the UPRR west of Thornton are very badly deteriorated and have suffered almost total structural failure. The current condition of these manholes leaves them subject to immediate and imminent danger of collapse and also poses the threat of plugging the existing sewerline completely by falling debris. This existing sewer line and manholes are approximately six feet in depth. 

"It had been noted previously that these manholes were in poor condition, and it was planned to address these under the annual rehabilitation program. Recent activity by SRP in constructing their new overhead high-voltage transmission lines appears to have placed excessive loading on these manholes, thereby causing unanticipated structural failure of these manholes. 

"This pipeline is believed to have been constructed in 1985. The concrete of the existing manholes and bases has suffered severe damage from sulfuric acid as a result of high levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) throughout the 28-plus-year life of the pipeline."

The full memo is HERE



Casa Grande retains AA credit
classification from Fitch Ratings

(Posted Jan. 29, 20140


Fitch Ratings has again given Casa Grande a AA rating on its existing general obligation bonds, noting that the overall financial outlook is stable but that the police and fire retirement funds are lagging. 

"This rating means that the city can secure financing at lower interest rates, as there is much less risk that the money will not be repaid," the city said. "Similar to how individuals get lower interest rates based on their credit score, the city also has to prove its financial ability to repay any debt."

A city press release quoted City Manager Jim Thompson as saying, "While other cities in the state are being downgraded, we've been fortunate to keep our bond rating strong. This rating demonstrates our commitment to being responsible with public funds to make the biggest impact for the community."

Fitch noted that although still recovering from the economic downturn, the city has maintained a moderately paced economic recovery the last few years with increased levels of residential development activity, consumer spending and local commercial investment.

The agency also noted that city management “prudently accumulated a portion of the large excise tax revenue gains made in earlier growth years, particularly local construction sales tax revenues, and dedicated much of it towards future, one-time capital spending rather than expanding ongoing spending levels."


The text of the Fitch press release, including key review points, is:



Fitch Affirms Casa Grande, AZ's GOs and Excise Tax Rev Bonds at 'AA'; Outlook Stable   Ratings   Endorsement Policy

 

23 Jan 2014 2:20 PM (EST)


Fitch Ratings-Austin-23 January 2014: Fitch Ratings affirms its 'AA' rating on the following Casa Grande, Arizona (the city) debt:


--$28.1 million in outstanding unlimited tax general obligation (ULTGO) bonds;

--$28.3 million in outstanding excise tax revenue bonds.


The Rating Outlook is Stable.


SECURITY: The excise tax bonds are secured by a first lien on the city's excise tax revenues. The GO bonds are secured by an unlimited ad valorem tax levied on all taxable property in the city.


KEY RATING DRIVERS


STRONG DEBT SERVICE COVERAGE: Fiscal 2013 pledged revenues provide higher coverage on outstanding excise tax bonds of over 10x debt service and 9.3x maximum annual debt service (MADS) excluding debt repaid with utility system revenues given recent revenue gains realized from an improving economy and increased state-shared revenues.


MODERATELY PACED ECONOMIC RECOVERY: Increased levels of residential development activity, consumer spending, and local commercial investment point to a strengthening economy. Nonetheless, unemployment remains above state and national averages. Fitch anticipates a continued, moderate pace of economic recovery although growth may not return to pre-recessionary levels over the near term.


SOLID RESERVE LEVELS PRESERVE FINANCIAL FLEXIBILITY: Management maintains a large financial cushion in accordance with its policy. Use of very high reserve levels above that floor in conjunction with spending cuts allowed the city to withstand the downturn and resulting three-year decline in city excise taxes.


MULTI-YEAR TAX BASE DECLINES: Historically large annual gains in the tax base reversed sharply beginning in fiscal 2011. Annual tax base declines since then have moderated as this metric lags the market by about two years. Taxpayer concentration is moderately high.


BELOW-AVERAGE PENSION FUNDED POSITION: The city consistently contributes 100% of the actuarially determined annual pension contribution (APC) as required by its pension plans. Nonetheless, Fitch anticipates the city’s APC will steadily rise in order to improve the pensions’ below-average to weak funded positions. This anticipated cost driver is somewhat offset by the city’s measured debt and capital program. Fitch believes the city will maintain a moderate fixed carrying-cost burden despite funding its growth-related capital needs over the intermediate term.


EXCISE TAX BOND RATING CAPPED ON PAR: Pursuant to Fitch’s criteria, the rating on the excise tax bonds is capped at the level of the city’s ULTGO rating.


RATING SENSITIVITIES


SHIFT IN FUNDAMENTALS: The ratings are sensitive to changes in fundamental credit characteristics including excise tax performance, currently solid coverage levels, and the city's sound debt and financial management practices. The Stable Outlook reflects Fitch's expectation that such shifts are unlikely over the near term.


CREDIT SUMMARY: 


SOUTH OF PHOENIX ALONG MAJOR INTERSTATE

Casa Grande has a population of about 50,000 in western Pinal County. It is a regional retail/commercial hub located approximately halfway between Phoenix and Tucson at the junction of two major interstate highways.


RAPID EXPANSION REALIZED PRE-RECESSION; PACED ECONOMIC RECOVERY

The city's population base has nearly doubled since 2000 due largely to the affordable residential development within feasible commuting distance to the larger metropolitan employment bases. Rapid population growth fed the housing construction boom, which drove much of the city's double-digit tax base growth that occurred from fiscal 2006-2009 along with rapid rates of price appreciation, but ultimately resulted in the collapse of the housing market that was largely realized statewide. The state’s housing market deterioration and home value declines were some of the most severe in the nation and, in conjunction with the recession, weakened the local economy over much of fiscals 2009-2012.


Nonetheless, recent housing data reflect moderately improving home values that have steadily recovered since the trough of the recession. Increased residential development activity, consumer spending, and local commercial investment remain below pre-recessionary peaks but also point to moderate economic improvement in the city, inclusive of a large, multi-functional products and trade center, Phoenix Mart. The development is slated to break ground in 2014 and will reportedly add 3,000 jobs to the community according to its investment guidelines. Unemployment remains elevated, consistent with historical trends. Year-over-year unemployment declined to 9.8% in August 2013, due in part to labor force loss, from 10.5% in August 2012. The August 2013 rate remained above state and national rates of 8.7% and 7.3% respectively. Median household income and advanced educational attainment are below state and national averages.


TAX BASE DECLINES HAVE MODERATED 

Growth in secondary assessed valuation (SAV; which lags changes in market value by two years) began to reflect the substantial home price declines in fiscal 2011 with a significant 12% decline in SAV. Annual declines since then have moderated, reflective of reduced deterioration in values over time. SAV remains closer to its pre-2009 level at about $333 million in fiscal 2014 and the top 10 taxpayers comprise a moderately high 14.8% of SAV, led by an electric utility and an outlet mall, each at 3%. Management’s preliminary expectations are for a return to at least flat performance in fiscal 2015 given development underway and planned as well as improving home values.


Proposition 117 was approved by Arizona voters in November 2012 as a constitutional amendment, and is expected to minimize some volatility in valuations by limiting annual increases in locally assessed existing property values to 5%, beginning in fiscal 2016 (2014 real property valuations). Fitch will continue to monitor the evolving impact of Proposition 117, as it reflects a significant change to the property assessment process.


EXCISE TAXES ARE KEY TO GENERAL OPERATIONS

The city relies largely on excise taxes to fund general fund operations. The excise tax is provided by a broad base of revenue sources, including local sales taxes, state shared sales and income taxes, franchise fees, license and permits, and fines and forfeitures. Property taxes make up less than 10% of total general fund operating revenues. Management prudently accumulated a portion of the large excise tax revenue gains made in earlier growth years, particularly local construction sales tax revenues, and dedicated much of it towards future, one-time capital spending rather than expanding ongoing spending levels. After a three-year period of decline in its excise tax revenues, the city has recently realized two years of gains over fiscals 2012-2013. This was largely a result of both growth in the city’s state-shared revenues based on its higher population count and strengthened local sales tax. Pledged excise tax revenues grew about 11% in fiscal 2012, exceeding management’s prior expectations, and additional growth of nearly 8% was recorded per unaudited fiscal 2013 results.


IMPROVED EXCISE TAXES PROVIDE SOLID BOND COVERAGE

Legal provisions for excise-tax revenue bondholders are strong; the city covenants to levy new or increase existing excise taxes if the minimally required coverage level of 3x is not maintained, although the critical need for excise taxes to fund operations guards against over-issuance. Fitch conservatively calculates coverage based on the $32.7 million in excise taxes received in fiscal 2013 for the outstanding excise tax bonds and the full Water Infrastructure and Financing Authority (WIFA) loan, a portion of which is secured by excise tax revenues (and which has a parity excise tax pledge) at a solid 4.0x MADS. However, assuming wastewater revenues, which are the intended repayment source for the WIFA loan (and which is the city’s practice), continue to be sufficient to cover debt service, MADS coverage on the excise tax debt rises to a very strong 9.3x.


STRONG FINANCIAL CUSHION MAINTAINED

Developed from multiple fiscal years of strong revenue growth prior to the recession, the city's financial cushion peaked in fiscal 2008 with an unreserved general fund balance of $30.6 million or nearly 83% of spending. Management judiciously built a very high level of reserves over time (to be maintained at no less than 50% of general fund spending according to policy) in order to offset some of the risk associated with the economically sensitive excise tax revenues that provide the bulk of funding general operations.


In response to recessionary pressures on operating revenues, management reduced spending levels in fiscals 2010 and 2011 thru a variety of operating efficiencies as well as used some of the financial cushion available with the drawdown of roughly $4.5 million in both years. The years' drawdowns were largely for one-time capital spending but also included ongoing operating expenditures, although a large reserve cushion was maintained at year-end. Results for fiscals 2012 and 2013 reflect both management’s conservative spending practices and the area’s and state’s positive economic trends in its key revenue streams. Budget projections were largely improved upon at year-end and the city expects to add a modest $578,000 to reserves at fiscal 2013 year-end, bringing unrestricted general fund reserves up slightly to $19.8 million or about 52.5% of spending.


The adopted fiscal 2014 $40.8 million budget grew by about 6% from the prior year’s budget due to both one-time pay-go capital spending that is expected to draw modestly on reserves by about $1.3 million as well as salary and pension cost increases that totaled around $1.1 million. Operations are structurally balanced. Management reports year-to-date revenue and spending trends generally remain in line with budgeted numbers and, as supported by the city’s stable and moderately growing economic climate, year-end fund balance is expected to remain stable.


MODERATE OVERALL DEBT/PENSION FUNDING LIKELY TO DRIVE LONG-TERM LIABILITIES

Overall debt levels are moderate, approximating $2,510 on a per capital basis and 4.5% of market value. The city's direct debt levels are supported by utility revenues and the city's practice of pay-go capital spending. Principal amortization of tax-supported debt is rapid at about 78% in 10 years. Management indicates its large, planned capital improvement program (CIP) over the next five fiscal years (fiscals 2014-2018), which includes sizable pay-go capital spending, remains flexible. The only tax-supported debt needs projected in the near term include issuance plans for the remaining $16 million in GO bond authority for a community center. Nonetheless, Fitch expects much of the CIP will eventually be implemented over time given the city’s growth-related capital needs and will likely follow management’s history of maintaining a measured debt and capital program that should allow the city to maintain a moderate fixed carrying-cost burden.


WEAK PUBLIC SAFETY PENSION FUNDED POSITION 

The city contributes to two pension plans, as well as for disability, death and healthcare benefits. The general employee pension plan is through the Arizona State Retirement System, a cost-sharing, multiple-employer plan. The city has made 100% of its APC in fiscals 2011-2013. The plan's funded position is satisfactory at 75.7% at June 30, 2012, although it would fall to an estimated 68% after adjusting for a more conservative 7% investment rate of return.


The city also makes its full APC to the Arizona Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS), an agent, multiple-employer plan for police and firefighters. Both the fire account and police account pension funded positions are weak. This is despite recent state legislation that incorporates multi-year increases to employee contribution rates and future benefit changes, which are projected to improve the city's (and plan's) funded position over time. The police pension program is funded at 54% as of the most recent actuarial valuation (June 30, 2011) while the fire pension position is at 60% for the same period. The funded position of both accounts would drop to 52.6% (fire) and a very low 47.5% (police) assuming a 7% rate of return.


The city has contributed 100% of its annual required contribution for other post-employment benefits (OPEB) over fiscals 2011-2013, although the OPEB funded position is not yet reported separately from the pension system. Carrying costs (debt service, pension, and OPEB costs, net of self-supporting debt) totaled a relatively modest 14% of governmental spending in fiscal 2013 assisted by sizable self-support of debt from its enterprise systems and conservative leveraging practices. Fitch believes the city's carrying costs over the near- to intermediate-term will likely rise to a moderate level but remain manageable given a modestly rising debt service schedule and probable increases required by the state to the employer's APC as well as expectations of future debt issuances.


The official press release from Fitch Ratings is at

https://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/press_releases/detail.cfm?pr_id=816660



2013 average jobless rate in CG 8.9%

  CG jobless rates from January through December, with an 8.9 percent average

(Posted Jan. 23, 2014)


The report for all areas of Pinal County, other counties and the state is HERE


Casa Grande ended 2013 with an average of 8.9 percent unemployment, statistics released Thursday by the Arizona Department of Administration show. The average for year 2012 was 10 percent.

By contrast, the year's average for 2007, the year before the national economy tanked, was 4.1. 

The breakdown of statistics for the county and other cities and areas, with the December 2013 rate first, the November 2013 rate, 2013 year average and the 2007 year average show:

Pinal County, 7.5, 7.3, 8.4, 4.4.

Pinal County without Indian reservations, 6.9, 6.8, 7.8, 4.

Arizona City, 4.2, 4.1, 4.7, 2.4.

Coolidge, 13.4, 13.1, 14.9, 8.

Eloy, 11.1, 10.9, 12.4, 6.6.

Florence, 16.6, 16.1, 17.8, 4.4.

Maricopa city, 7, 7.1, 8.2, 4.9.

Stanfield area, 16.4, 16.1, 18.2, 9.9.

Ak-Chin Village area, 9.3, 9.1, 10.5, 5.5.

Sacaton area, 29.2, 28.7, 31.9, 18.9.

Chuichu area, 10.4, 10, 11.7, 6.

Blackwater area, 22.8, 22.4, 25, 14.2.

Gila River Indian Community, 23.4, 22.9, 25.6, 14.6.

Ak-Chin Indian Community, 9, 8.9, 10.3, 5.5.

Tohono O’odham Nation and off-reservation trust lands, 27.2, 26.5, 29, 16.9.


BELOW IS CASA GRANDE'S 22-YEAR AVERAGE


mycasagrande mobile app available

(Posted Jan. 22, 2014)


The city issued this announcement today:


The city of Casa Grande has become one of a handful of communities around the country to leverage smartphone technology to encourage citizens to report service needs or issues of concern. 

The app, called mycasagrande, is available for download to use on Android and Apple devices. The mobile app allows residents to report graffiti, code violations, illegal dumping, street repairs/maintenance, sewer issues and parks maintenance. Residents can simply click a picture of an issue and send it to the city.

The technology uses the GPS in smartphones to identify the specific location of the problem, allowing the city to more efficiently dispatch work crews, codes enforcement officers or other personnel to the scene. 

The city believes that the information provided by citizens through the new mobile app will help to improve the efficiency of its operations and reduce costs.

It is available at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/citymanager/pio/mobileapps/


Mark Bonsall, Mike Keck honored
on Police Department retirement







SGT.
MARK 
BONSALL

Oct. 10, 1988 
to 
Jan. 11, 2014








CMDR.

MIKE

KECK


March 1992 

to 

Jan. 10, 2014.

(Posted Jan. 21, 2014)


Two veteran Casa Grande police officers were honored during Monday night's City Council meeting upon their retirement after serving more than 20 years each.

Mike Keck, retiring as a commander, joined the Casa Grande Police Department in March 1992. Sgt. Mark Bonsall served since October 1988.

Both men will take jobs as investigators in the Pinal County Attorney's Office.

As Mayor Bob Jackson put it after calling Keck to the podium, "An opportunity has really presented itself for Mike; he's really leaving because a once in a lifetime opportunity has presented itself. Certainly I understand that. I really appreciate and respect Mike for all he's done for the city.

"And I will tell you, he's seen lots of changes in Police Department over the last 20 some odd years but he's kind of been the go-to guy. I know Mike outside of his professional life and I will tell you he's dealt with a very difficult situation over the years and done that very professionally and very, very well.

"Certainly on behalf of the city, Mike, we hate to see you leave but by the same token we're happy for you because I think it's a new chapter in your life and you do a great job."

Keck spoke briefly.

"Mark and I both were presented an opportunity to move out to work for several more years," he said. "But I do want to thank the council, the City Manager's Office, the chiefs that I've worked for. I've had a great career here, a lot of opportunities. I've always appreciated all the support from everybody. It was hard to leave, but it's just time to start a new chapter in my life. I'll still be around in the area working with the departments. So thank you very much, I appreciate it."

Calling Bonsall forward, Jackson said, "while I hate to see both of them leave, I absolutely understand what they're doing and I agree with it. I know they'll do a great job in their new profession."

Jackson pointed out that in his other life Bonsall is part of the Noel Kirkland band, playing bass guitar.

"I know the first time I saw him playing in a park or something," Jackson said, "I looked up there and said that looks like Mark Bonsall -- no it can't be.

"Certainly he's done a lot of things in the community. And much like Mike I think he's given a lot to the community. Being a police officer is not an easy job. I know you've got lots of war stories, and I heard some of those, as well.

"And on behalf of the council I want to thank you for your years of service. I know you'll do a great job in your new endeavor."

Bonsall's comments were also brief.

"It's been an absolute honor to serve and protect this community," he said. "It is my community. Like they said, it's not a job, it's a new future. I enjoyed every minute of it, so thank you."

Council members also had comments.

"The years I've been on the council I've become very much aware of what they've done," Dick Powell said, "and their fingerprints are all over a lot of the good policing policies and the good things that have happened to our Police Department on their watch. You're not people we can replace. We'll hire somebody else to take your place, but we can't replace you, so we just want you to know how much we appreciate you, and whoever is getting you is lucky."

Matt Herman also thanked the two.

"You guys are really community members," he said, "not just as police officers but as what you do outside of the job, and that's certainly in this community. You guys both live here, you've lived here forever. We appreciate that. 

"And Mike, I just want to say we have the public safety meetings (council committee) and they give us all the information I have to look at and he can put it into the terms to translate to me so I know what they're talking about. He has a really good way about him of doing that and he's helpful. The knowledge that we're losing is sad. He promised me he's still going to be around and help out the department.

"And Mark, the same thing. Community guy, you do stuff all around. You really give it all, and I just appreciate you as a member of the community and a good person to have around. I know you guys aren't going far, but we're glad for you."

Lisa Fitzgibbons said, "You know, Mike, it just seems like you're just like a pillar in the department and it's truly going to be their loss. It's sad to see you go. When I was on the public safety (committee), just your professionalism and knowledge and integrity was really good on that, and so we're are really losing someone really important.

"And Mark, your life is the Casa Grande police officer, everyone pictures you. You've been here for so long, and it's just your integrity and your personality and you truly care about this community. It's just really a shame we're going to lose you both, it is just really sad.

"I hope you guys know that you are going to be missed. Not only the council but the community appreciates everything you've done here."

Karl Montoya said it was a pleasure to work with both men, both when he was a member of the volunteer Citizens on Patrol and for the Silent Witness program.

"You've kind of helped Silent Witness move up from the ashes, I would say, from a little portion of the Police Department and with the community hand in hand to where it is today and doing great strides. You guys should be proud of helping that program really move forward and being that liaison and getting that information and really helping the community."

Ralph Varela touched on the professional aspect.

"Your professionalism always came through," he said. "You're a leader, your ability to followup on any request or questions that we had. You will be missed here, but the good thing is that your skills remain in Pinal County. So good luck to both of you and thank you for everything that you did."

Mary Kortsen added, "It's so important that a community has faith in their Police Department. You've been one of the key things in that."

Jackson said he spoke with the county attorney during an event Friday night "and he's excited to get you. I did tell him whatever he's paying you wasn't enough."


Four honored for service

(Posted Jan. 17, 2014)


The Greater Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce honored four people Friday night for outstanding service to the community. In addition, outgoing chamber board chairman Rona Curphy was given a small metal golf cart with her face pasted on the driver's seat, next to last photo below. Chamber President Helen Neuharth said the "award" was in recognition of Curphy's (in)ability to drive a golf cart.








Helen Neuharth, chamber president and CEO, received flowers as thanks for her work during the year.


Qualified construction managers sought
for building PhoenixMart infrastructure 

(Posted Jan. 15, 2014)


You'll find the complete request for qualifications at

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/04/PhoenixMartCMR.pdf


A list of companies responding is HERE. The city still has the proposals under consideration.


PhoenixMart is advertising for proposals from qualified construction managers for building infrastructure for the 525-acre multis and multiphase commercial, business and planned area development project on the north side of Florence Boulevard (Highway 287) at Toltec Buttes Road.

The full request for proposals is posted on the city of Casa Grande website. 

The city is involved because the project land is within the city's Post Ranch Community Facilities District. Examples of construction in CFDs are Villago and Mission Royale.

The latest announcement also says, "The city of Casa Grande and the Post Ranch Community Facilities District may participate financially in portions of the project. The water portion of the construction will be not eligible for CFD funding and must be accounted for separately."

Modeled after similar ones in China and Dubai, PhoenixMart is advertised as a servicing center that allows companies to showcase their products and services to international markets. Proposed uses, the announcement said, will include various business, retail, hotel, office and employment.

"The project includes public and private improvements of infrastructure to support the development generally located between LeBrea Street and Evans on the east and west and Cottonwood Lane and Florence Boulevard on the north and south," the announcement said. "The infrastructure will generally support phase one of the project to include a 1,550,000-square-foot building; however, some infrastructure will be constructed now to support future phases. The estimated project budget is $17,000,000."

The announcement said the work includes:

• Road improvements

Construction of approximately four miles of public roadways, including paving, curb and gutter and drainage structures located within the first phase of the approximately 585 acres. Improvements will include street lighting and improvements to SR287.

• Water improvements

Construction of private domestic water supply located within the newly dedicated public right‐of‐way within the first phase of the 585‐acres, along with improvements to connect to existing facilities located on Mission Parkway north of Florence Boulevard. Routing will be north on Mission Parkway, then east on Cottonwood Lane to the 585‐acre development.

• Sewer improvements

Construction of public sanitary sewer supply within the newly dedicated public right‐of‐way of the first phase.

• Landscape improvements

Construction of landscape, hardscape and irrigation in the first phase.

• Grading and drainage

Providing grading and drainage facilities, including temporary and permanent retention basins to capture right‐of‐way drainage in the first phase.

• Coordination

Coordinate with existing Southwest Gas, ED2 Electric District and Hohokam irrigation services.

Proposals from qualified contractors must be received by the city by Feb. 6.


State grant will help CG keep selenium
discharges at sewage plant within limits

(Posted Jan. 13, 2014)



The staff report is HERE


The Arizona Water Co. levels report is HERE


The federal EPA fact sheet on selenium in drinking water is HERE


You could say the city is between a rock and a wet place when it comes to cleaning selenium levels in the treated wastewater discharged from the sewage treatment plant.

To work toward the goal of not having discharge levals above federal and state law, Casa Grande has received a $18,850 grant from the Water Infrastructure Authority of Arizona to help cover the cost of a professional engineering study.

As Public Works Director Kevin Louis pointed out to the City Council while explaining the problem and need for a solution, "selenium levels are a natural occurring constituent in our water here in Arizona. As a matter of fact, with Arizona Water Co. the levels that they're allowed to develop for drinking water are much higher than our discharge levels. They're allowed 10 times as much selenium in their water they deliver versus what we're able to discharge, so we're already at a disadvantage when we have a treatment system that was never really designed for that."

The federal EPA sets the selenium level in drinking water at no more than 50 parts per billion, which the latest Arizona Water Co. report says the company is meeting.

"Arizona Water is a totally different standard when it comes to the Clean Water Drinking Act," Louis said. "This is the Clean Water Act as well, but it's the industrial discharge that we're dealing with. It's different ways of looking at water and how it impacts the environment. The Clean Water Drinking Act deals with human consumption, we're dealing with what we're discharging into the environment, to make sure we're not hurting fish, flowers, plants, those types of things."

When Casa Grande's plant was expanded and able to discharge A+ treated water to recharge into the groundwater tables, the limits for the plant became more strict, Louis said.

"We've been dealing with high selenium levels in our effluent for several years now," he continued. "We've typically been able to keep those below our discharge limits, but we have had three exceedances."

That brought notice from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, described as a routine action when the limits are exceeded, but not a formal demand for immediate solving of the problem.

"We are working with ADEQ," Louis said. "They are giving us a lot of latitude on how to address this, but we do have to address it. They don't have an answer for us. The answers that we've been able to find we had to go out and find ourselves, even though they probably had those answers before we started asking. So it's just one of those challenges we're going to have to deal with. We've been working with them for two years on this issue and other issues  and this one just hit that limit, so that we find ourselves in this place right now.

"This would be treated totally differently (by ADEQ) if we were doing something that caused this intentionally. We are not. This is just something that has occurred and now we're going through the process of identifying a way to modify our treatment process and our testing methods to hopefully come into compliance."

Louis said discussions with the water infrastructure group brought word that some grants were available "and said if we looked at this issue with the idea that we could maybe solve our issue and help other communities, as well, that they would be willing to consider us as a grantee."

The $18.850 study grant requires another $12,600 from the city in staff time and other services.

"We'll be looking at the different areas that could be impacting our system in trying to work on solutions, as well as looking at other testing methods that can give us a little more accurate reading," Louis said.

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons asked if the study would be completed before there might be another selenium exceedance.

"I can never really tell you when we might exceed a limit," Louis responded. "Of course, we hope we hope we have a process in place that takes that off the option table."

Fitzgibbons also asked if the study might lead to a major expense for the city for changes at the sewage plant.

"It's hard to anticipate right now until we get there," Louis answered. "We've been able to modify our processes in our  plant to buffer those limits … hopefully offset any of those exceedance possibilities.

"That's a short term solution, now we're looking for top long term solution. We want to make sure we have a process in place that guarantees that we can provide that quality of the water in our discharge."

The staff report accompanying the agenda item noted that, "City staff has performed initial analyses of the cause of these exceedances and has identified and implemented an alternative testing method which provides more reliable and accurate results for analysis of selenium levels. While use of this testing method will reduce the likelihood of a reportable exceedance, it does not provide a means of removal of excessive selenium from the effluent. A means of enhanced removal needs to be identified and implemented to ensure compliance can be achieved."

Mayor Bob Jackson pointed out that the long term solution might be an additional three months after the study or much longer. A number of things might have to be done, none of them cheap, he said.

"I have found that nothing with wastewater or anything is cheap," Louis responded.


New landscaping rules may solve problem
of trees dying in Mission Royale subdivision

(Posted Jan. 9, 2014)


You'll find the staff report, which includes the revised planting types list, HERE


The plan apparently was to create streets in Mission Royale that had trees with canopies gracefully arching over the pavement. They would be in planting strips in front of homes, the maintenance up to homeowners.

It hasn't worked out that way.

The issue before the Planning and Zoning Commission during its Jan. 2 meeting was a request to revise the list of plants and trees required under the planned area development standards for the active adult part of the subdivision north of Earley Road.

Because of several factors, including vacant homes, about 230 trees have died, including 130 in the last year alone, the commission was told before it approved a revised plantings list that includes hardier types.

"I believe the intent of requiring trees within these planting strips was to promote tree lined, canopy-laden streetscape," city planner Jim Gagliardi told the commission. "But where that works well for parkways and wider streets which exist within the Mission Royale development, on local streets that are quite a bit narrower, not to mention the fact that these planting strips abut yards that have trees of their own, that idea of having a canopy-laden street doesn't quite work in this scenario. 

"What I mean by planting strip area is it's that area of the right of way between the curb and the sidewalk. Throughout this community it ranges from three and a half feet wide to five feet wide.

"The issue is that due to the narrowness of the planting strips, a lot of the trees have had a watering situation as well as the oversized canopies tend to drop over the street and to drop over the adjacent residential properties where there are other trees. There is potential concerns for damage to the curb and sidewalk as these trees mature."

Gagliardi said that in the short term, lysiloma trees have been planted in some area but that doesn't appear to have been the most appropriate landscaping.

Gagliardi said the planning staff recommended changing the planting requirements list to  "remove some of the trees that have shown aren't performing well in the area due to water concerns and updating it to not only provide more drought-tolerant plants but plant material that are seen in other area of the Mission Royale community and have been approved on other landscaped plans for streetscapes along Hacienda and Earley and throughout their open spaces."

Hugh Renard of the homeowners' association, told the commission that the problem with dying trees has been going on since the subdivision began 10 years ago.

"And we've lost about 230 trees," he said. "In the last year alone, we lost 130 and the expenses are mounting as the years go by. The winds will whip them, break them off. Freezing in the winter time is killing them out. And lack of watering in some locations where they're really small."

Other problems, Renard said, are that in the smaller planting strips, the surviving trees "are cracking the curbs and the sidewalks and the city's absorbing the expense to repair that, so that's something for you to consider, as well.

"In the space between the street and the house, you've got 20 feet to the sidewalk and then another five or six feet out to the center line of that planting area. We're required to put a tree in our front yard and the city requirement requires a tree in that streetscape," he continued.

"If you put the tree away from the house far enough enough so that it's not damaging the house -- that's standard 13 feet away from the house -- it puts the two trees within 13 to 16 feet of each other, and the two conflict. You've got to trim one or the other so that one of them will continue to grow properly and not damage the other one. And that's an expense to the homeowner, too.

"We're concerned about the continual expense to us, the various trees that we can use are getting smaller and smaller as to which ones we can use and which ones we can't. And we're going to be fighting this for a long time if we don't get this approved."

Commission member Mike Henderson asked if all trees would be replaced.

"We don't plan to remove any of them, unless they're trees that the city has to remove because it's damaging the street or the sidewalk," Renard replied. "We will leave those there.

"We've got quite a few trees that received considerable damage in last year's frost (freeze) that have been trimmed and strapped up so that they regrow a new center stalk, and they look horrible. But that's what we've done to try to keep our costs down and let those eventually take off. "

Another problem, Renard said, is that before new trees reach ideal height "they block the sidewalk for people walking on the sidewalk. They have to get up high enough that you can create a canopy for people to walk under. What you're find is people are walking in the street to avoid all of them. If we take all these trees out and new ones in you're going to have more people walking in the street."

The commission approval of a revised plantings list was unanimous, with Brett Benedict absent.


Casa Grande Police Department joining
state's Child Abduction Response Team

(Posted Jan. 6, 2014)


The staff report is HERE


The interagency agreement is HERE


The Casa Grande Police Department will become part of the Arizona Child Abduction Response Team, joining several other law enforcement agencies.

Unanimous approval by the City Council came Monday night during its regular meeting.

According to the agenda item staff report, "Several law enforcement agencies in the Phoenix area and the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office have entered into agreement to assist each other in cases where a child is missing and circumstances of the incident give cause to believe the child may have been abducted. This coordinated response of specially trained officers from several agencies gives the requesting agency greater ability to bring such cases to a successful conclusion.

"Our department would assign one or two investigators to the CART team who would respond with the team on an as-available basis.

"In the event Casa Grande should experience such an incident, this agreement would allow us to request a CART response and provide us the needed resources to properly handle such an incident."

Specialized training for the team is provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Casa Grande would cover its police staff costs for about 40 hours of initial training and for time on responses, typically six to 12 hours, the staff report says.

The resolution was on the consent agenda, items passed on one vote without discussion, but Councilman Matt Herman asked that it be pulled so that he and others could comment.

"It's really helpful for our city," Herman said. "What it has to do with is when you have a child abduction in your area. Child abduction doesn't happen a lot here and we hope that it doesn't, but this means we will be ready. Instead of having someone full time just to dedicate to child abduction, there will be a whole team trained by the FBI if we may get that call."

Police Chief Johnny Cervantes told the council that, "We haven't had to use it yet. We've seen them operate for another issue outside our county and they used our Police Department for a command post, so we actually got to see them work and it is a pretty phenomenal. It is going to help us. Hopefully it never happens, but if it does happen we're going to be ready to respond."

As Councilman Dick Powell sees it, "I don't think there's anything more frightening than a missing or an abducted child. And research indicates probably that the sooner that you can find that child, the better success. The first four to eight hours is very, very critical.

"I know the amber alerts helped a lot, but I think it's a big asset for our community to be involved in an intelligent, trained, organized response if that should happen, or if we can help somebody else that needs help with it."


 Pieces falling into place for major
 Regional Gateway Commerce Center,
 future Henness Road/I-8 interchange

(Posted Jan. 5, 2014)


You'll find the commerce center staff report HERE


You'll find the CG Mountain Ranch staff report HERE


It's far from a done deal, but pieces are falling into place for what the developer envisions as a major commerce center along Interstate 10 from I-8 north to Jimmie Kerr Boulevard.

As outlined to the Planning and Zoning Commission during Thursday night's meeting, the Regional Gateway Commerce Center would be on 525 acres as part of a planned area development designation replacing the present urban ranch and light industrial zoning. 

"The planned area development zoning district will allow various land uses to support and enhance the economic development potentials of the site, as described within the city’s General Plan," the staff report for the agenda item says. 

"In the Commerce and Business land use category, corporate office oriented campuses, business parks, light industrial that occurs within buildings, and mixed commercial are ideal land uses along the junction of interstates 8 and 10. The site serves as an economic gateway to the city.

"The proposed Regional Gateway Commerce Center will compliment and support the Casa Grande Mountain Ranch PAD, a planned residential community located immediately to the south of this project site. When combined, these projects will be the 'Center Point of the Southwest,' providing a unique community environment for live, work, and play.”

Casa Grande Mountain Ranch was also on Thursday's agenda for changes in land configuration to allow for a future interchange at I-8 and Henness Road.

The commission sent favorable recommendations on both requests to the City Council.

Jack Gilmore, a planning and landscape architect representing developer George Chasse, told the commission that both men believe the gateway center, combined with Casa Grande Mountain Ranch and its residential and other areas south of I-8, are extremely significant to the city.

"I have to emphasize how important we believe this location in the city of Casa Grande," Gilmore said. "We envision this as a wonderful gateway project for the city and the chance to generate corporate office users. Our vision is attract more national corporate developers.

"If you've been on the north side of Phoenix where the USAA corporate office is for the insurance, the corporate headquarters, that's kind of project we envision for this location."

Site selectors travel around the United States looking for such freeway interchange locations, Gilmore said, noting that there are only five in Arizona, not counting the freeway loops around the Phoenix metro area.

"So when you think about Tucson, San Diego and the city of Phoenix," he continued, "we think this is a very strategic location, so we anticipate there will be users as the market continues to evolve looking for this kind of location that'll have exposure on the freeway that will carry up to 100,000 cars a day in year 2020.

"Again, we see this as a chance to market both projects as the center point of the Southwest and Mr. Chasse is aggressively right now marketing national developers to the benefits of this location. We're getting everything lined up and we're just get this PAD on the books so we can promote this across the country."

The question from commission member Mike Henderson was, when will something get started on the commerce center.

"It's a point in time condition," Gilmore responded. "We believe as the market continues to evolve and having been doing this for several decades here in the Valley and doing projects down near Casa Grande I believe the market is going to follow the I-10 corridor and we're starting to see that already. Now we have the PhoenixMart and I think that's going to continue to develop interest on this I-10 corridor and I think when the PhoenixMart starts their renovation of the old Tanger outlets that's going to start to draw attention to that location, especially when they break ground.

"I think as interest comes to our property, what triggers the development will be the size and scale of that development, because the first phases, as in all cases of projects like this, are typically the most expensive.

"We have to develop a threshold to justify the investment, have something like this PAD on the books so that we can present that to these users, give the staff and the city the comfort level that we've thought out appropriate infrastructure requirements and access. I believe the PAD will do this and give the staff and the city the confidence that it will be a quality development with the appropriate services.

"The timing is another crystal ball kind of question. I wish I had a better answer for you, but again, we want to be prepared when those users come forward. And we've been talking with the Central Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation and others like that to say this site is going to be available in the near future, put this in your realm to make an introduction so those users like USAA that need this kind of a system interchange location with this kind of exposure know there's a site in Casa Grande with a great housing project to the south side."

"We're seeing the right things begin to line up to attract futurists at this location."

Gilmore said that the proposed Interstate 11 from Nevada, still far in the future, would come along present Val Vista Boulevard, joining I-10 as part of the international CANAMEX Corridor linking Canada, the United States and Mexico for trade. "We see this as another asset to promote the use and interest in this location," he said. 

Henderson also pointed out that AZ Sourcing, the parent of PhoenixMart, also has announced plans for major renovation of the old Tanger outlets center and the building of a commerce center on the property immediately to the west, both located north of Jimmie Kerr Boulevard. That commerce center has been stalled by disagreements between AZ Sourcing and the city over the height of buildings and other concerns. (See following item for earlier story about what was proposed and why the city has qualms.)

"Is there anything we need to know or be concerned about in tying these things together and all pulling the same way?" Henderson asked.

Planning and Development Director Paul Tice responded that the outlets center work will be known as Station One and the 34-acre commercial development to the west as Station Two.

"Station Two is proposed to be a fairly dense urban/commercial type of development, some mixed use," Tice said. "And certainly that, with the development of this (Regional Gateway Commerce Center) site would sort of create a significant commercial center in this part of town.

"They compliment each other, I think, from a land use perspective. However, the transportation system is not very good, the connectivity between the two sites in terms of transportation connectivity, because of the barrier provided by the railroad that parallels Jimmie Kerr. The only way we're going to get land use transportation connectivity is with some kind of a new crossing over the railroad tracks. It's going to be a challenge."

The Casa Grande Mountain Ranch agenda item keyed mostly on shuffling land boundaries around to dedicate space for the future interchange when Henness Road is pushed to the south. That will be a major factor in the future, Gilmore said, adding that, "the Arizona Department of Transportation recognized the importance of this interchange but the timing is not definite. It's a hundred-million-dollar project.

"George Chasse has been working for the past three and a half years to process a change of access report for that Henness Road interchange with I-8," he continued. "And as a result of that effort  we have discovered that we need to provide the right of way for that interchange and in doing additional analysis we came up with this new boundary."

Henderson said he had read that such an interchange would be paid for by the developer.

That is true and that is the intent, Gilmore responded

"ADOT has approved this location for the interchange and they have designated this as a developer-paid interchange," he said. "In other words, ADOT didn't commit to pay for this interchange itself. If the developer wants to do it, they would support this location, so that was the basis for the change of access report."

As it progresses toward reality, Gilmore said, perhaps the city and some major corporate tenants could contribute to covering the costs of the interchange, which would support both the Regional Gateway Commerce Center north of I-8 and the Casa Grande Mountain Ranch project south of the freeway.

Earlier story about proposal west of old outlets center

(The proposal has twice been delayed at the request of the developer. No new date has been announced)


(Posted July 26, 2013)


A request for major changes in a commercial area behind the outlets center at Interstate 10 and Jimmie Kerr Boulevard, including a 110-foot-high hotel and a 165-foot high apartment building, is the main item on the Casa Grande Planning and Zoning Commission’s agenda for the Aug. 1 meeting.

The city Planning and Development Department has recommended denial. If the commission decides to approve the application anyway, the department asks for several changes to scale down and soften the look of the area, which would be known as Station II.

The meeting, open to the public, is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

The application is an amendment to an earlier approved planned area development for the site, north of Jimmie Kerr Boulevard.

“This PAD amendment seeks to change the land uses to major commercial residential/retail, senior care facility uses, commercial, business and service uses, indoor and outdoor recreation and proposes urban designed buildings and form, such as a 110-foot-high hotel building, a 165-foot high rise apartment building, six-level parking garage, four-story anchor store, single store retail with office above and building heights up to 75 feet,” the staff report says.

“To help put the building heights proposed within the Station II development into perspective, the tallest building that exists today in Casa Grande is the Abbott Labs cooling tower building which is approximately 200 feet in height. The Francisco Grande hotel is approximately 90 feet.”

The staff report notes that the area is slowly transforming from rural to suburban and will eventually become a major southern gateway to the city and downtown area.

“As such, staff does not have an objection to the creation of a commercial development at the Station II site,” the report says. “Staff simply believes that the building heights and perimeter building setbacks proposed in the Station II PAD take too drastic of a step in this direction and that a design that has a more gradual transition would be appropriate.

“Accordingly, in order for the proposal to meet the PAD criteria in regards to building heights and setbacks, staff has suggested a gradual transition of building heights and increased perimeter setbacks.”

Those recommendations, most involving a conditional use permit, are in the chart above.

“Staff recommends the commission recommend to City Council that the major amendment be denied due to the following requirements not being met:

• “The proposal does not meet the "Spatial Form and Design" of the General Plan 2020 Commerce and Business Land Use Category.

• “The proposal does not meet City Code section 17.40.020.1 (PAD Architecture) in that the proposed building heights are not compatible with the surrounding developments.

• “The proposal does not meet City Code Section 17.40.020.N. (PAD requirements) in regards to perimeter building setbacks.

• “The proposal does not meet City Code Section 17.40.020S.a.i. that the building(s) or shopping center shall be located at the intersection of two arterial roadways or have frontage on an arterial roadway and be immediately adjacent to an interstate highway.”

The report says that if the Planning Commission were to forward a favorable recommendation to City Council regarding the Station II PAD, staff would suggest conditions of approval including those in the above chart.



    2013 City Report includes spending, other highlights;
    53 percent of the budget was to provide public safety
                   -- download full report

     Chart shows the fiscal year 2013 rates, the increases for FY 2014 and the proposed 25      percent discount.

Nonprofit tournament field rental
rates will remain at previous levels 

(Posted Dec. 17, 2013)


You'll find the agenda package at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


The meeting is online at 

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/citymanager/pio/channel11/


The meeting will also be on cable channel 11. The schedule is at 

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/04/MonthlyPlayoutSchedules4.pdf



The rates that Casa Grande charges nonprofit sports groups to use city fields for tournaments will remain at 2013 fiscal year previous levels, the City Council decided Monday night after more than an hour of discussion.

The city defines nonprofit as groups recognized as such by the Arizona Corporation Commission or the federal Internal Revenue Service.

There will be no concession fee for the first tournament of the season. After that, the fee will be $12 an hour,

When the city fees schedule for this fiscal year came out, several nonprofit groups complained, contending that the new costs were too high, perhaps forcing them to take their tournaments elsewhere. Under discussion Monday night was a resolution cutting fees to nonprofits by 25 percent. That evolved into keeping the fees at the last fiscal year levels.

According to the staff report accompanying the agenda item, the estimated sports complex facility rental revenue for this fiscal year is $50,000, of which 15 percent would be from tournaments.

Rates chart for other cities is HERE.


In other action Monday night, the council:

• Approved spending $31,887 for a greens mower for the golf course.

• Approved spending $264,569 for a garbage collection truck, replacing one with 178,999 miles on it.



Ah, that sugar rush!
City seeking vending machines contractor

(Posted Dec. 12, 2013)


An army, they say, travels on its stomach. From watching the incessant, loud commercials on television you'd think the rest of us travel on sugary soft drinks and junk food.

Ah, that sugar rush!

Should government be any different?

Casa Grande is asking for proposals to provide vending machine services at 10 locations -- although along with a warning that at least some of the items must be "healthy alternatives such as baked chips, granola bars, etc." Drinks, the request says, should include water, juice, soft drinks and sports drinks.

No cheap stuff will be allowed. "Contractor shall provide products and services of a quality and price consistent with those presently being offered in this region in similar facilities," the request says, adding that, "The city has the right to request changes to products in vending machines if products are not suitable for the facility."


You'll find the request at 

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/04/vending-soq.pdf


The plan won't cost the taxpayers any money, except for electricity to the machines that require it. "All equipment, machinery, tools, supplies, or other materials necessary to install and operate the contractor’s vending machines shall be furnished at the contractor’s sole expense," the request says.

And, there's a clause that the contractor has to pay you back if you lose your money in a machine "due to stock outage, equipment malfunction or other reasons." The contractor also has to check for expired foods or drinks and replace any. There is also a requirement that products in a machine never be allowed to be below 25 percent.

Some government agencies work out contracts that give them a percentage of profit from machines. Casa Grande will be different.

"In lieu of paying the city of Casa Grande a monthly commission based upon a percentage of the gross sales or revenues from the vending machines, the successful contractor shall offer food and drink choices at a discounted rate equal to the percentage to be paid in commission," the request says. "In calculating gross sales or revenues, such amount shall be calculated based upon the total sales for vending machines located in public areas and no deductions, set-offs, or allowances will be made or permitted for goods or products which are spoiled or damaged."

And lest you think Casa Grande is behind the times, all machines must provide multiple ways to pay, including credit cards.

Proposals from vendors are due by Dec. 19, with final negotiations completed by Jan. 10, the request says.



Reviving subdivision at Trekell/McCartney 
brings concerns about safety, added traffic

(Posted Dec. 8, 2013)


You'll find the agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/



Growth brings traffic. Traffic brings concerns and complaints.

It's no different with the proposal to revive the dormant Arroyo Grande subdivision on 103 acres at the northeast corner of Trekell and McCartney roads, bringing in 307 homes over four to six  years of construction.

The subdivision was approved in 2006, but fell victim to the economic crash across the nation, leaving some infrastructure built but little else but dreams. Under the new plan the subdivision would be built in four phases rather than all at once, scheduled to begin at the far eastern side and working to the west. The plan, in order, would be 100 lots, 45 lots, 70 lots and 92 lots. Landscaping and sidewalk along the entire McCartney frontage would have to be done during the first phase.

Before the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the preliminary plat for the revised plan Thursday night, there were several questions about traffic, especially with Casa Grande Union High School across the road.

After the explanation of the proposal by City Planner Keith Newman, commission member Mike Henderson said, "None of the presentation and very little of the graphics have discussed the fact that there's a large high school across the street. Are there any considerations that we should be thinking about regarding the school and the construction and the development of 300 more houses there? It seems to me as if this is going to impact the school and the school might very well impact how they build this, because you're going to have inexperienced drivers in a construction zone and you're going to have the possibility of new people all at once. I'm just wondering if this has been part of the discussion, because it has not been part of the presentation."

Planning and Development Director Paul Tice responded that the first thing to remember is that "the high school is built in the middle of a residential area, neighborhoods around it, so we can expect a lot of additional residential construction around the high school in the future.  We have Arroyo Vista down the road a little bit, we have Villago wrapping around to McCartney, so there's going to be a lot of residential development around the high school."

Tice said the city installed a traffic signal at Trekell and McCartney to help the situation and that one of the reasons city planners asked that the sidewalk along the side of the development facing McCartney be done as part of the first phase of construction "was for the purpose of trying to improve pedestrian safety over there, because we do have pedestrians from the high school and surrounding area walking there."

Tice also pointed out that because the first phase of construction will be on the eastern part of Arroyo Grande there shouldn't be too much impact on the traffic situation until full buildout reaches McCartney and Trekell.

"So all told, we really don't see any adverse relationship between the high school and this development," Tice said. "In fact, as they market home and sell homes it's going to be good if the kids can walk to school. If they have school buses and traffic, it really helps, I think, to create that relationship for pedestrian access to the school itself."

Commission member Joel Braunstein said building sidewalks is great, but that won't solve the present and potential traffic problems.

Already, he said, there is "enough of a traffic problem" where the Villago subdivision has an entrance/exit on McCartney. Braunstein pointed out that the Arroyo Vista plan shows an entrance/exit at McCartney and Trekell.

Also, he said, "It's right in the middle of a speed zone, people going east are crossing traffic, there are kids walking on that sand lot south of McCartney. That little exit near the corner of Trekell and McCartney I feel is way to close to the corner. I don't know what the traffic was when they replatted this, whether they considered the huge amour of traffic that's going to be coming out of that addition."

Newman said the developers had submitted a traffic impact analysis.

Duane Eitel, the city's traffic engineer, told the commission that, "The main problems with McCartney aren't that it's just two lanes, it's the intersections. Casa Grande and McCartney and Peart and McCartney primarily are the two places where things fall down, and the high school when the kids are going to school in the morning and coming out in the afternoon, those are the main issues."

Arroyo Grande won't generate enough traffic is make the situation on McCartney a whole lot worse than at present, Eitel said.

"One of the things we were worried about was making left turns into the development," he said. The westbound lanes going by the high school stop and turn into a right turn lane. What we're going to do is leave the right turn lane there, leave one through lane westbound, a through lane eastbound and then make the two-way left turn lane. Restripe McCartney to make a two-way left turn lane so that there'll be a left turn lane for people to get in and out of the development. There'll still be left turn lanes for the high school."

Braunstein pointed out that drivers leaving Arroyo Grande who want to go east will have to cross westbound traffic. "We have enough problem down at the Villago entrance going across one lane, and there's no kids walking," he said.

Eitel said the situation will "be a lot like the entrance at Casa Grande and McCartney. There's a left turn lane there and there's a lane in each direction and a right turn lane."

When developers put in a project, they are required to do what is known as half street improvements. In some cases, that is widening a two-lane road by one lane, with the other side not being done until development occurs on that side.

"We don't really feel they should be responsible for building a half street on the south side of McCartney," Eitel said. "When development comes in there next to the high school there'll be a half street built there and then there'll be four lanes with a left turn lane in the middle, but until that we feel will the restriping will handle the traffic there by the development. 

That doesn't fix anything down at Peart or Casa Grande, but they are contributing a certain amount of money for the future signals we plan to put in those two locations."

Commission Chairman Jeff Lavender asked if the city was waiting until Villago is fully built out  before putting in a traffic signal at Casa Grande and McCartney. "Villago is responsible for putting in that signal," he said.

Not correct, Tice replied.

"Actually," he continued, "the Villago development agreement does not make them responsible for a signal at Casa Grande and McCartney. The agreement does say they will construct a number of traffic signals, one for example at Peart and McCartney, one at Villago Parkway and Pinal, and probably at McCartney and Pinal, but they are not on the hook for any signal at Casa Grande and McCartney." That signal will be a city project, Tice said, with money coming from developers other than Villago.

Lavender said that when the early childhood center near the Villago exit onto McCartney was approved the commission was told that Villago would be responsible for a signal there.

"There's a serious accident waiting to happen there," he said. "I know that's not on this agenda item, but I watch it every day and I'm sure Dr. Braunstein sees the same thing. If the city could be more proactive outside of this in addressing that before somebody seriously gets hurt it would be helpful."

Tice said a study of the most dangerous intersections in the city has been done and that the Villago exit if not at the top of the list is high up on it.

As a side note, Henderson asked if the city has a policy of including leadership of the schools in discussions about projects such as Arroyo Grande. Tice said that in this case the high school should have received notice as an adjoining property owner but there is no formal process to call schools in for discussions.

"You came after the bubble burst," Lavender told Tice, "but Rick Miller (Tice's predecessor) used to always send developers to meet with the high school, the elementary superintendent. That's how so many of those land donations were done. There's certainly capacity at this high school. They've been as high as 3,000 students, they're about 1,300 now, so they've got the capacity to take the students on. But that has certainly been the practice in the past for them to go out and talk and that's how so much land was donated between 2000-2005 to school districts."

Henderson added that, "I appreciate the fact that there's been discussion and that there's been consideration of these things, and I would hope that we would have staff being proactive about reaching out to these people and including it in the presentation so that we can be really sure that their interests are being considered."

The proposal was approved unanimously.

In other action Thursday night, the commission:

• Sent a favorable recommendation to the City Council for a proposed 4,450-square-foot Circle K retail convenience store and fuel center located on 2.17 acres at the northwest corner of Tucker Road and McCartney roads.

The 24-hour operation would abut vacant land and the closest residential homes are approximately 309 feet away, the staff report says.

• Approved a request by Antiaging and Wellness Institute to combine two units into one larger one in Casa Grande Professional Village at Peart and Kortsen roads.

• Approved a request to divide a lot in the airport industrial park into two parcels.




$20,000 grant will help cops patrol
CG's 615 miles of roadway for DUI

(Posted Nov. 28, 2013)


You'll find Nov. 18 agenda items and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/



The City Council has approved accepting a $20,000 state grant to help pay overtime and other expenses associated with sweeps targeting driving while under the influence.

It'll come in handy.

During the Nov. 18 meeting when the council was considering the grant, Councilman Karl Montoya asked Police Chief Johnny Cervantes for the number of DUI arrests last year and so far this year.

"During 2012, we had 227 total DUI arrests," Cervantes said. "Those are all arrests, not just from DUI task force. Twenty nine of those were felonies and 188 were misdemeanor arrests.

"This year so far, we have 147 DUI arrests; 34 of those are felony and 113 are misdemeanors."

Montoya said regional DUI arrests are probably more than 100 so far "and we're not even into the busy season.

"I just wanted to give everybody a reminder that the holiday season is around. So are the police. They're always looking.

"We're seeing great numbers in designated drivers. That's a big help, but last DUI detail in Casa Grande we had a young lady wreck into one of our officers, so you can see what the risks are to everybody out there, not only to the public but for us as well."

Mayor Bob Jackson asked Cervantes how a felony DUI differs from a misdemeanor.

"Obviously, your level of intoxication is one way," Cervantes replied. "That's probably the primary way to go from misdemeanor to felony."

City Attorney Brett Wallace agreed, adding that DUI with children in the vehicle is classed as a felony, as is causing injuries during an accident. Having multiple DUIs within a certain time period can also turn into a felony, he said.


The state statutes covering driving while under the influence are ARS 28-1381 through 28-1390. They are found at

http://www.azleg.gov/ArizonaRevisedStatutes.asp?Title=28


The Police Department's grant application to the Governor's Office of Traffic Safety also listed some little know facts about traffic and vehicles in Casa Grande.

"The city of Casa Grande encompasses an area of 110.12 square miles with 615.19 miles of roadway maintained by the city," the application says. "Mileage includes an expressway of 12.31 miles, a principal arterial with 58.97, a minor arterial with 57.15, a major collector of 27.83, a minor collector with 78.31, a local with 340.87, and an alley of 39.76.

"Interstate 10 and 8 traverse the city for 26 miles. State Route 387 (Pinal Avenue) and 287 (Florence Boulevard) are major thoroughfares and comprise 15 miles of roadway in Casa Grande. 

"Presently, 49,804 citizens call Casa Grande home. From 2000 to 2012, the city has grown from 25,224 citizens to 49,804, a growth of about 197 percent. 

"As a destination spot in western Pinal County for shopping and winter visitors, the city's  numbers swell beyond 49,804. Estimates by the Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce show that during special events approximately 10,000 will attend the annual Electric Light Parade and Cactus State Fly-In air show, in addition to the 15,000-20,000 winter visitors who call Casa Grande home during the months of October through May. 

"The Promenade mall is the largest retail center in western Pinal County and typically shows vehicle traffic at about 10,000 vehicles on normal weekends. That number doubles to 20,000 vehicles during holiday shopping periods, according to mall management that tracks traffic into the mall."



Local groups get $161,970 
in Gila River casino grants

(Posted Nov. 19, 2013)


You'll find agenda items and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


Accepting Gila River Indian Community casino grants totaling $161,970 for community groups was approved Monday night by the City Council.

The grants are:

• Against Abuse, $100,000 for supervised visitation and safe exchange center. 

• Casa Grande Lions Club, $1,500 for vision tests and eyeglass distribution. 

• Casa Grande Valley Historical Society, $15,000 for enhancement of exhibits. 

• Casa Grande Youth Sports Club, $7,470 for football safety skills camp. 

• City of Casa Grande Housing Division, $38,000 for housing rehabilitation.

As noted in the agenda item staff report, "Under Prop. 202, Arizona tribes agreed to share a portion of their revenues with the state of Arizona. Of the revenues shared, 12 percent is made available to cities, towns, or counties for the purpose of benefiting the general public through either direct distribution to the local governments or in the form of a deposit to the State of Arizona’s Commerce and Economic Development Commission’s Local Community Fund."

The staff report also notes that, "The city of Casa Grande would be responsible for the pass through of these funds. We anticipate this would take approximately 10 hours of staff resources with an estimated cost of less than $500."

As the council prepared to vote, Councilman Dick Powell said, "That's $161,970 that's given from our neighbors. All of these nations that are around us are such good neighbors and really help us extremely and I wanted to point that out, what they give and how much it affects our community. How lucky we are to have them as neighbors here."

Mayor Bob Jackson added, "I couldn't agree more."


In their applications, the local groups gave these reasons, in brief, for requesting the grants:


Against Abuse

Families in Pinal County that experience domestic violence and have child custody issues in Superior Court are often in need of either supervised visitation or safe exchange services. La Paloma, the supervised visitation and safe exchange center operated by Against Abuse, Inc., opened its doors in October 2009 as an alternative to unsafe, unsupervised exchanges in parking lots between parents who were already going through stressful and sometimes outright combative custody battles. 

La Paloma Center is located in Casa Grande and receives referrals from family court judges in Pinal County, including the Gila River Indian Tribal courts. La Paloma serves as a fair and safe location for children to visit their non-custodial parent while being supervised by trained staff. La Paloma also serves as a safe location for children to be exchanged from one parent to the other for unsupervised off-site visitation. La Paloma safety measures include separate entrance/exits for parents, security personnel, security cameras and staff trained in observation, de-escalation and re-direction. 

Since opening, more than 2,500 supervised visitations and 2,200 safe exchanges have occurred, all without involving local law enforcement. Funding is being sought through tribal gaming funds to continue the operation of La Paloma, a much needed service for victims of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault and/or stalking. 

During fiscal year 2011-2012, 202 of the 315 participants at La Paloma were residents of Casa Grande. It is anticipated that La Paloma will serve an equivalent number of Casa Grande residents during FY 2013-2014. 


Casa Grande Lions Club

We request $ 1,500 to enable the club to expand its service of providing eye tests and eyeglasses to people in our community who require but cannot afford them. 

We anticipate that this amount would enable us to provide eye tests and eyeglasses for an additional 18 citizens based on current costs of $80 for these services through the Lions sight and hearing centers in either Phoenix or Tucson. This does not, however, include transportation costs for these clients who can ill afford the trip. 

We carry out vision screening services at the free Stanfield Clinic, collect old eyeglasses for recycling (in excess of 1,800 pairs this year).


Historical society

The Casa Grande Valley Historical Society has four major areas of focus: preservation, education, supporting community development, and providing a recreational and tourism resource. Through preservation, exhibits, and programming we seek to share the stories of the people and resources of the Casa Grande Valley.

In 2013-2014 we aim to enhance current exhibits and develop more inclusive and diverse permanent installments, temporary exhibits, and public programs. The exhibits and public programs will reflect a more holistic history of the Casa Grande region that reflects the cultural diversity of the region prior to, during and after the arrival of European settlers. By partnering with local tribal communities through funding and outreach we hope to enhance culturally relevant exhibits and programs, develop stronger educational resources, and a build a greater audience for the history of Casa Grande. 

Due to limited space and funding, exhibit development to date has been limited; funding would allow for enhanced exhibits with a more comprehensive scope of content to depict the diversity of our communities and reach a wider audience. We seek to enhance current exhibits with improved content and storylines to more holistically portray the diverse cultures of the Casa Grande region. We also hope to improve exhibit signage and sight lines to provide descriptions and hands-on options for a wider audience of diverse ages, ethnicities, and perspectives. 

Additionally, we seek to increase the content and frequency of temporary exhibits. With additional funding we hope to attract traveling exhibits through partnerships with local historical, academic, and cultural preservation organizations.


Youth Sports Club

Casa Grande Youth Football League is coming before you to request funding for our annual football and cheerleading safety skills camp. This will be the fifth year that we have provided this camp for the young boys and girls from the city of Casa Grande. The camp is designed to provide the boys and girls the proper understanding and awareness of the safety element as it pertains to playing football and participating in cheerleading. 

The camp will promote safety and leadership. Football is a tough sport and can be a dangerous sport at times. That is where the camp comes in. The volunteer coaches are able to teach the fundamentals that will protect the kids from injury on the field of play. Proper tackling and proper body conditioning are among some of the skills taught during the camp. These two areas are essential to a player's safety on the field. 

This program is based in Casa Grande and serves the youth of Casa Grande. In a time when child obesity is running rampant, this program helps promote healthy living among our youth here in Casa Grande. In addition to healthy living, it also promotes social awareness, teamwork, leadership, and responsibility to our youth.  

The number of participants in the program is just over 400 youths and more than 70 adults. This number has increased each year since the club's inception. This year we hope to reach over 500 youths to participate. 

 

Housing Division

The city of Casa Grande Housing Division proposes to rehabilitate and upgrade living conditions for low income, elderly, disabled or families with children. Grant funding will complement the existing housing rehabilitation program aiming to improve and preserve the quality and appearance of the housing stock and the overall environment in the community. Rehabilitation services include a comprehensive program to bring the properties into compliance with all adopted City Codes and incorporate energy efficient retrofitting, ADA adaptable, and weatherization. Examples of rehabilitation services include: 

• Repairing or replacing roofs. 

• Foundation and Structural repairs. 

• Room additions to address overcrowding. 

• Plumbing repairs. 

• Electrical repairs. 

• Installation of siding and additional wall insulation. 

• Replacement of water heater. 

• Replacement of HVAC. 

• Replacement of windows and doors. 

• Installation of Low Flow water fixtures. 

• Installation of lighting fixtures and ceiling fans. 

• Mitigation of structural air leakage. 

• Emergency home repairs. 

• General property improvements are also included to upgrade the physical appearance of the home and the neighborhood as a whole. 

The Housing Division intends to use grant funding to provide emergency rehabilitation services to 10 homes in Casa Grande. The exact services will differ among the homes depending on the outcome of the inspection, consultation with the homeowner, and discussion of allowable items/non-allowable items. Outcomes from rehabilitation services will have long term effects for the homeowner as well as the neighborhoods. Home values will increase, utility expenses will be reduced with the installation of energy efficient appliances and weatherization upgrades and safety hazards will be eliminated.


The City Council passed a resolution in April authorizing the applications to GRIC. 

Applicants also approved but not contained in the latest round of funding were:

Boys and Girls Clubs, $16,000 for a computer lab. Casa Grande Alliance, $7,000 for a minors in possession of alcohol diversion program. Casa Grande Main Street, $18,430 for a historic downtown cooperative. Casa Grande Union High School, $490,000 for Rebuilding of High School track. City of Casa Grande Animal Care and Adoption Center, $95,342 for 14 additional kennels. Casa Grande Arts and Humanities Commission, $100,000 for an art plaza and $10,000 for school art mini-grants. Paramount Foundation, $43,000 for a DeGrazia documentary, $33,766 for downtown outdoor market, $72,000 for the historic theatre. Pinal Hispanic Council, $10,000 for Cesar Chavez memorial scholarships.


The April staff report said the city would consolidate the requests, review them and then send information on city priorities to GRIC. That would be 20 points for addressing the tribal target areas, 10 points for meeting the city strategic focus areas and 15 points if more than 75 percent of the dollars are spent to benefit Casa Grande residents.



Variance to clean lot, build home
approved with no time restrictions

The property in question, left, is now a weed covered vacant lot used as a dumping ground.




(Posted Nov. 12, 2013)






You'll find the agenda and staff report at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/boa/


The question before the Board of Adjustment during Tuesday night's meeting was whether to grant a variance so that a person can build a home on a lot that was subdivided years ago without city permission and does not meet present size or width requirements.

The question from board member Gordon Beck was, who's responsible for making sure these things don't happen?

First, some background:

The residential zoning now covering the property at 114 N. Morrison Ave, requires a minimum lot size of 7,000 square feet, but the lot in question is 5,600. A minimum lots width under the zoning is 70 feet, but the property is only 40.

It was a twisting road to get to today's situation.

"At the time the Myers Addition to Casa Grande Final Plat was recorded in the 1920s," the staff report says, "lots 4, 5 were platted as 50-foot-wide lots with 7,000 square feet of lot area and Lot 6 (the one before the board) was platted as a 40-foot-wide lot with 5,600 square feet of lot area. At the time the city first zoned these lots in 1948, as Class B Residence which required a minimum lot area of 5,800 square feet, Lot 6 was classified as legal non-conforming in terms of lot area. When the City rezoned all three lots in 1964 into the R-3 zone district with a minimum lot width of 60 feet, all three lots became legal non-conforming as to lot width."

And the saga goes on:

"In 1992," the report says, "a prior owner of these three lots split and reconfigured them into three new parcels. One of the reconfigured parcels did comply with both the lot area and lot width requirements of the current R-1 zone district while the other two did not.

"This prior lot split was done without any city review or oversight as there is no record of a re-subdivision process, which would have been required per the City Code. However, since all three of these parcels contained single family homes at the time of the lot reconfiguration no building nor zoning issues came to light."

City Planner Laura Blakeman explained to the board that because there were already houses on the lots no building permits were required, thus the city was not aware that the owner had changed the property lines.

In December 1998, the report continues, the property had a house on it and was sold to Elroy Investments.

"According to Pinal County records," the report says, "the property was designated as 'rental residential, which is considered property that is leased or rented for residential purposes. In July of 2008, the property was cited by Code Enforcement for the building being abandoned and unsecured. The property was unsightly with uncut dead grass, weeds and the back yard was covered with debris. Shortly after, the property was sold to Linn Rene Ballard and a demolition permit was obtained from the city to tear down the house.

"Presently the property is vacant and is a common dumping ground for trash and weeds.

The present owner purchased the property in 2008 and wants to build a new home on the property, but cannot because of the size and width requirements."

The whole thing didn't sit right with board member Beck, who asked, "Who's responsible for making sure these things don't happen? It's hard for me to see how this could have gone through … whether there was a house on it or not."

Planning and Development Director Paul Tice responded that, "Actually, it's quite simple and unfortunately it happens quite frequently. Here's why: 

"In Pinal County, as I suspect in most counties across the U.S., you can go to the County Recorder's Office and record deeds for new properties with no oversight. So when you go to record a deed at the County Recorder's Office, they don't have to ask did the city approve this deed or this subdivision stuff that you might be doing. 

"This activity clearly violated a provision of the City Code, there's no question on that. 

"Typically how it's caught here in Casa Grande, and in my experiences in other communities, is at the time of building permit issuance. When someone comes in to apply for a building permit, you then check your legal description, your lot area, whether or not you have a legally created parcel, which is what has happened here. So it's pretty common for it to be caught not at the time of creation but at the time that someone actually tries to put the property to use."

According to the agenda item staff report, Ballard wants to build a two-story 1,452-square-foot single-family residence.

That's a good thing, board member Chuck Wright said, clearing up an eyesore, but added that he believes there should be a time limit on how long Ballard can take to build the home. Wright suggested a limit of two years. "I just feel we'd like to see it built," he said.

Tod Miller, an architect representing Ballard said, "The only time frame that I'm aware of is the owner is contemplating a number of different options, all of them are concerned with building on the lot. One is to build it for himself, sell his current house and then move into the newly built house. The second is to build a house and sell it as a developed piece of property. So, yes, to answer your question, he is thinking about building on that lot to get it done. It depends a lot upon what his financial resources are and how much it's going to cost and so on and so forth."

Wright made a motion to approve the variance but add the two-year time limit.

Tice said that sort of limit could create a problem.

"We really can't control how long it takes them to complete the project," he told the board. "If you want to do this type of condition, you need to stipulate that they must pull the building permit within two years, I can control that. If the building permit is not obtained within two years the variance would be void."

Wright then amended his motion to pulling a permit within two years.

During discussion, new member Lyle Riggs, attending his first meeting, disagreed on limits.

"I think if we put a time limit on it, we run the risk of creating a disincentive," he said. "If we don't approve it and they don't build it, (the land) stays the same. If we approve it with the time limit and they don't build it, it stays the same. I think we're trying to impose a condition on someone that economic times may come, the conditions may change, and to give them a two-year limit it really isn't going to accomplish anything because if at the end of the two years they don't build, they're just going to have to come back and do this all over again. Let's approve the variance. That increases the value of the property. If they can't build on it, then they can resell it with the approved variance and the next person can build on it."

Wright's amended motion failed 5-1, with him casting the only positive vote.

Riggs then made a motion to approve the variance with no limitations. That passed 5-1, with Wright against.

Board member Harold Vangilder was absent, not excused.


Family game and entertainment center
plan for east side of Home Depot OK'd 

(Posted Nov. 7, 2013)


You'll find the agenda at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/

Click on staff reports for relevant documents



The major site plan for a 23,000-square-foot entertainment center on the east side of Home Depot was approved 5-1 Thursday night by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The lone opposition vote was from member Mike Henderson, who had outlined concerns about unescorted children from the school behind Home Depot coming through traffic in the parking lot trying to get to the arcade. The commission is minus one member with the resignation of Cheri Edington, who had been appointed in March.

Developers of the project termed it a family amusement and game center with food service. No construction or opening date has been given.

In questioning City Planning Jim Gagliardi, Henderson noted that traffic and safety concerns had been expressed during City Council and Planning Commission hearings on Odyssey school being built north of Home Depot off of busy Peart Road.

"I could see where this could be a similar issue, depending on exactly what they plan to do and exactly who their market is," Henderson said, "and the proposal doesn't discuss any of that."

Gagliardi said that the city staff has been told that the target market for the center is children 12 and under. "It's not going to be so much video games as it's going to be kinetic type arcade where there'll probably be small indoor rides," he added. "The main access is facing south, so there's not a lot of relationship between the back of the building that would be facing the Odyssey school." The term arcade was used, he said, because that was the closest definition in the planning uses.

Henderson then asked, "Is there a problem with small children running around the Home Depot lot where monster trucks regularly try to run me down?"

Gagliardi responded that while he believes safety and security should be looked at, "My response to this from a planning perspective is that none of these children can drive, it's far away from any major residential area and one of the other indications that the applicant advises is that there would be a lot of parties held there. If not all, at least 99 percent of the children would be getting there by a vehicle driven by parents or guardians and so I don't imagine there being a major pedestrian issues with children, although in any situation where there are little kids that needs to be an item to be considered. I would imagine that that would probably fall more in the hands of the management."

Henderson asked if children from Odyssey would be curious about the center and try to get to it from the school.

"Physically it's close, it's within 300 feet it appears," Gagliardi said, "but there is a major drainage retention between the two uses and a wall. The easiest way to get to it would be through the school's parking lot to Peart and then cross over through the Home Depot parking lot. That could be a potential concern, but there's also already potential dangers such as the Walgreens and Chili's and other businesses that are adjacent to Florence. I guess time will tell, because the school's fairly new, but again I think that safety should be a foremost concern, but I don't know if that would be the responsibility of Planning Commission or staff to ensure that or if that's more of a management issue among the Odyssey school and the respective management of the arcade."

Gagliardi said the city had not heard from Odyssey about the entertainment center.

Sean Arnold, representing the developers, said the target age range is 12 to 13 and under.

"The intention at this point in time for the arcade is to have some indoor rides, some interactive activities for parents and children to do together," he said. "There will be some video games, because there will be older children that come, but the target demographic is younger children."

Arnold said there are no plans at this time to seek a liquor license. "It will be all you can eat buffet style, pizza, salad, fruit, dessert bar type of setup," open to anyone, he said. "It'll be somewhat similar in structure to Peter Piper Pizza, which I am sure many of you are familiar with."

Arnold said hours of operation have not been set, but closing would be no later than 10 p.m. on weekends and perhaps 8 or 9 p.m. on weekdays. Opening would probably be around 10 a.m.

"Again, it geared for a younger market, it's not intended for teenagers to hang out there into the late hours," he said. "While there does need to be some things for them to do, most of the activities I don't think they'll want to go there because it will be a little bit juvenile for their tastes."


Mortuary rezoning gets initial OK

(Posted Nov. 4, 2013)


You'll find the agenda at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/

Clicking on agenda items brings up staff reports and other documents


Initial approval was given Monday night by the City Council to change zoning at 112 and 118 N. Sacaton to central business district, more in line with other operations in the area.

The request, with final approval expected during the next council meeting, was from Angels in Waiting, which has set up a mortuary business at 112 N. Sacaton and has said it hopes to take over the building at 118.

The approval of rezoning is separate from problems the mortuary has had with the city over bringing in a large prefab building without permits or approvals and placing it between 112 and 118 facing Sacaton Street.

The building has now been removed, for a couple of reasons, Planning and Development Director Paul Tice told the council Monday night.

“One, it didn't fit into the historic area, both of these (112 and 118) are historic buildings,” he said.

Also, the present B-4 zoning requires buildings to have large setbacks, in this case at least 25 feet from Sacaton. The central business district zoning allows buildings to be right to the sidewalk.

“That building could not be there under the B-4,” Tice said, “it would have to be set back, considerably farther back.

“And in my opinion, if the owner wishes to build additions onto one of these buildings or to build in between those buildings, the type of building they should build is one that sort of represents and reflects the same sort of setbacks (right to sidewalk) as the two existing buildings have, sort of fit as the missing puzzle between those two, and should not be set back significantly different than the other two buildings.”

The Planning and Development Department is also looking into other complaints about Angels in Waiting, mainly about offensive smells from the area of both the cooler for bodies that has been placed outside of the building near an alley and the outside biohazard waste container. There have been complaints that the cooler has been left open, allowing passersby to see bodies inside.

“We're looking into those,” Tice said, “and in fact found that there were some building violations and zoning violations associated with that. We're addressing those separately.”


The explanation


This explanation of the action is included in the accompanying staff report:


The site is currently zoned B-4 (community business) and currently houses commercial developments on the property (Stephani’s Pooch Parlor and Angels in Waiting businesses).

The site is surrounded by commercial development which is developed with predominately commercial, retail and service uses. These types of uses are typical for a B-3 (central business) zoned site.

The B-4 zoning is a heavy commercial/light industrial zone district that really is not compatible with the B-3 land uses in the surrounding downtown area. Additionally, the B-4 zoning has required setbacks and parking requirements that limit the amount of development that can occur on this downtown site. 

In comparison, the B-3 zone does not require minimum setbacks except for the residential zone setback and it allows for on-street parking to be used in meeting the standard parking code requirements.

Staff finds that the B-3 zone would facilitate the development of land uses that are more compatible with the downtown area. If the zone change is approved it will allow for flexible setbacks, on street parking, and will allow the Community Center Urban Form to be achieved.


In other action Monday night, the council:

• Approved changing land use from neighborhoods to commerce and business south of Kortsen Road east of Interstate 10, which moves the location of planned residences further to the east and allowing commercial to fill in.

• Approved changing land use from commerce and business to neighborhoods on 27 acres south of McCartney Road west of I-10.

• Approved amending the city's General Plan to show areas where aggregate deposits are located.

• Approved applying for a team from AmeriCorps to continue work on the Casa Grande Mountain Trails Project.

• Approved applying for $3,000 from the Scholastic Library Publishing National Library Week Grant for an awareness campaign during National Library Week from April 13-19, using artists from the Casa Grande Valley Fine Art Association and high school students to construct window displays in vacant storefronts promoting the library and advertising library programs.


Pinal Avenue work begins Sunday

(Posted Oct. 25, 2013)


The city issued this announcement today:


The Arizona Department of Transportation will be making roadway and sidewalk improvements along a 2.6-mile section of Pinal Avenue between Florence Boulevard and the Santa Cruz Wash Bridge beginning on Sunday, Oct. 27. 

Paving will be done between 6 p.m.-7 a.m. One lane will remain open in each direction at all times during construction.

The project will include the installation of a new pedestrian hybrid beacon at the San Carlos Trail school crossing. A pedestrian hybrid beacon is a pedestrian-activated warning device that assists pedestrians in crossing a street at a marked, but unsignaled, crosswalk using a system of warning and flashing lights to notify and stop traffic. 

ADOT said the work also includes:

• Removing and replacing pavement on Pinal Avenue and curb and gutter improvements throughout the project limits.

• Replace and upgrade sidewalks to meet Americans with Disability Act (ADA) standards.

• Restriping new roadway surface.

• Remove and replace guard rail on Santa Cruz Wash Bridge. 

For construction updates, visit www.azdot.gov/SR387.


Good condition brings major trade-in
amount for new equipment at landfill

(Posted Oct. 22, 2013)


As anyone knows, the better the condition a vehicle is in, the more you’re likely to get at trade-in time.

So it was with Casa Grande buying a new Caterpillar tractor-scraper for the landfill.

Sort of like horse trading.

List price: $890,578. Discount: 20 percent. Trade-in: $274,000.

With the add-ons, transportation, assembly and sales taxes, the final cost is $512,866. (Yes, the city pays sales tax just like residents do.)

The equipment, Public Works Director Kevin Louis told the City Council during Monday night’s meeting, is being purchased from Empire Machinery of Mesa through a municipal purchasing agreement. No local dealers provide that type of equipment, he said.

“The requested scraper is one of the primary pieces of equipment for the landfill,” Louis said. “It’s used to collect, transport and place our soil for our daily and intermediate landfill cover, replace and reuse cover material, which is required under our (state) permit, and to develop access roads throughout the landfill site.”


You’ll find the agenda at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/

Clicking on an agenda item brings up accompanying staff reports or other documents.


It was explained at a previous council meeting that state law requires that all waste in a municipal landfill be buried with at least six inches of dirt at the end of each day’s operation.

The equipment will replace a 2007 Caterpillar of the same model and size.

“It was up for replacement last fiscal year,” Louis said. “We did evaluate that at that time and extended the useful life out one year. The year prior to that, we had made some improvements to that piece of equipment as far as some major repairs and we wanted to kind of get some of our costs out of that.”

The general useful life of such equipment is six years. In this case, the city is also buying a six-year, or 9,000 hour, extended warranty “which will help offset the cost of major problems that we might experience,” Louis said.

The trade-in was negotiated with Empire, taking into account the condition of the old equipment.

“A lot of times with municipalities, we aren’t as hard of pieces of equipment as contactors,” Louis said. “Contractors push those pieces of equipment to the limit. We have an operation that we have very well trained operators, they do that operation and not much more. So we do take very good care of our equipment, so that when we do get to the end of that useful life for us there’s still value.

“It’s not a hard, fast rule when that point is reached. We looked and we evaluated that we could extend the life of this out one year. We did roll the dice on possibly having some major breakdowns. We were lucky and this is when we decided to replace this piece of equipment.”

The new tractor-scraper will have special grade control equipment to help determine where cover soil is placed at the landfill and at what elevation. The city’s state permit allows building skyward, with another 30 to 40 feet in height allowed.

“This gives us real-time data,” Louis said. “The feedback comes directly to the operator as he’s rolling over the different terrain, so that we’re not putting too much or too little topsoil, which typically required us in the past to come back and either shave some off or put a little more on it.

“It also will help us keep track of our elevations as we do our different lifts as part of our buildout scenario. We’ll have to contract much less with our survey company to come in and place those points. We’ll have that real-time data that we just check periodically.”

In other action Monday night, the council:

• Reappointed Brad Johnson to the Board of Appeals.

• Gave local approval to renew American Greyhound Racing’s off-track betting permit at McMasher’s.

• Gave final approval to switching cellphone and wireless broadband service from Sprint to Verizon because Spring has not upgraded equipment to meet city needs.

• Gave final approval to changing zoning to general business at 655 W. Cottonwood Lane. The approval allows continued operation of a non-profit thrift retail store (Casa de Bling and The Ark Mash Stores Windows, Doors & More) owned by the New Beginnings Church of the Nazarene. Both businesses have been operating as illegal non-conforming uses (The Ark Mash Store since 2005 and Casa de Bling since December 2012). Those retail uses are not allowed in the existing light industrial zoning. The council was told during the initial hearing that the operators have now obtained the required business licenses and certificates of operation.


Casa Grande hires Show Low 
official as city finance director

(Posted Oct. 15, 2013)


The city issued this announcement today:


Casa Grande City Manager Jim Thompson announced today the selection of Doug Sandstrom as the new finance director.

Sandstrom was chosen following a comprehensive search to fill the position that included more than 30 applicants to replace Diane Archer, who resigned.

As finance director, he will provide leadership, direction and guidance of all financial and information technology activities for the city. He begins his duties on Nov. 11.

Sandstrom will be leaving his post as administrative services director for the city of Show Low, Ariz., where he oversees the day-to-day operations of the Administrative Services Department, which includes payroll, utility billing, customer service, performance management and overall financial administration of the city.

"Doug is an excellent hire and brings a wealth of valuable experience to Casa Grande," Thompson said. "His expertise in the area of financial administration and performance management will be of great benefit to our organization and community in the years ahead. We're excited to have him join our executive leadership team."

Before moving to Show Low, Sandstrom worked for the city of Surprise, Ariz., in various capacities between 1999 and 2009. While there he served as a budget/grant analyst, budget manager, management and budget director and assistant city manager. In his last role in Surprise he provided executive level management and leadership of all city departments, including strategic planning and goal implementation.

Sandstrom has also worked for the city of Gila Bend, Ariz., as a finance director and as a financial analyst for the city of Rockford, Ill.

"What attracted me to Casa Grande is the City's reputation as a financially solid, progressive city with the potential to capitalize on growth through its position as the trade and employment center of the region," said Sandstrom. "I look forward to maintaining and building upon the solid financial foundation that has been put in place over the years. I also look forward to living in a community that maintains and respects its history, while offering a variety of more urban amenities as well."

Sandstrom holds a master's degree in public administration from the University of Wisconsin and a bachelor's degree in political science/economics from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. He has two children who live and attend college in Tempe.


$38,000 grant by Tohono O'odham
helps city with home rehab program

(Posted 13 Oct. 2013)


Information about this and other housing programs at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/planning/housing-division/


Award letter is here


A $38,000 grant from the Tohono O’odham Nation will help Casa Grande with its program of rehabilitating owner-occupied homes.

In April, the City Council had authorized submitting of a rehab grant for $50,000, or $12,000 more than received. In the award letter, Tohono Chairman Ned Norris Jr. said the nation received 320 proposals for grants, “an increase that reflects the current economic climate.”

The staff report accompanying the agenda item during the last council meeting said the funding will be used for rehab services from seven to nine homeowners who are elderly, low income, disabled, or are families with children.

“Housing rehabilitation services may include, but are not limited to, repairing or replacing old and damaged roofs, plumbing and electrical repairs, replacement of water heater and heating and cooling systems, replacement of windows and doors, and emergency home repairs,” the report says.

The city’s Housing Division website gives these requirements to apply for assistance:

• Individuals or families must be moderate, low or very low income.

(Click here for current income guideline)

• The property to be rehabilitated must be located within the city limits.

(Click here to see the Casa Grande city limits)

• The property must be owner occupied as a primary residence.

• Mortgage, sewer and trash payments and home insurance premiums must be current.

• Property rehabilitated must not have any encumbrances such as liens or judgments.

• Items eligible for repair may be individual or a combination of roof, heating and cooling, electrical, flooring, plumbing and structural components.

• There is overcrowding in the household.

The grant comes from Prop. 202, approved by Arizona voters several years ago. Under that measure, Arizona tribes agreed to share 12 percent of their casino revenues with cities, towns or counties.


Sprint doesn't upgrade its equipment,
loses city contract to Verizon's service

(Posted Oct. 10, 2013)


You’ll find the Verizon and modem purchase contracts at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


It’s a given among computer users that if you don’t periodically upgrade you’ll be left in the technological dust.

It’s the same for wireless service providers, as Sprint has learned with the city of Casa Grande switching to Verizon because of the latter’s much better performance.

A section from the staff report for the agenda item during Monday night’s City Council meeting sums it up:

“Since 2005, the city has recognized growth in operations and corporate boundaries, and finds that we need a ‘robust’ network provider to meet the demand of transporting large data files and information. Our current service provider (Sprint) has not advanced its network capacity or service boundaries at the same pace as our needs. The company has recently made small improvements, however they are not sufficient to satisfy the communication and data demands being made by public safety. There are places in the community where coverage is not found and others where coverage is dropped. Frequently when coverage is dropped, the mobile device must be restarted to pick up coverage again.”

During Monday’s meeting, the council gave initial approval to switching to Verizon and to purchasing updated modems for wireless communication with police and fire vehicles and some city departments at a cost of $83,621. A savings of $1,300 a month by switching to Verizon will be applied to the purchase, with the rest paid out of the normal equipment replacement fund.

Deputy City Manager Larry Rains said the city evaluated both cost and performance in recommending Verizon at a cost of $6,942 a month, which includes cell phone service.

The service from Sprint had started well, Rain said, but has not been upgraded to a point that it meets present city needs.

“Leading up to 2005, there was really only one provider (AT&T) providing wireless broadband technology in Casa Grande,” Rains told the council, “and that was very important, because it was really the first provider that launched their network in Casa Grande and allowed the opportunity to put these modems in the patrol cars and initially moved to the fire trucks, and from there went out to our Building Department and some of our remote types of services.

“Then in 2005 that provider indicated to us that they no longer were going to providing that service in Casa Grande because there just wasn’t a market for them to maintain that network here.

“Fortunately for us, at that point in time, Sprint was experimenting with their new products and had just rolled those out in Maricopa and so we quickly jumped on that particular service and began what I consider to be a lengthy relationship with Sprint as we transitioned from AT&T.”

That Sprint service was more reliable that what the city had been getting from AT&T, Rains said.

However, “What we have found the last several years is that for a variety of reasons Sprint has not maintained the capacity within our growing network here in Casa Grande.”

The staff report sets out how the city tested Sprint versus Verizon:

“The wireless modems that are utilized in the Verizon network were tested side by side with Sprint at 12 locations throughout Casa Grande in both a police and a fire vehicle. The test results for our current provider (Sprint) mirrored what we have been experiencing in the field. Results included instances where the modem would drop and would not reconnection to the network. In addition, there were instances where data packets were lost during the transfers of files. The test of Verizon technology resulted in a continued connection with only a limited loss of data packets in the more remote locations of the community.”

As Mayor Bob Jackson sees it, “The thing I think is more important is the reliability issue. You’ve got pieces of town where we don’t have coverage. That’s got to be frustrating for some of those guys out there.”

The cell phone service will include the shared minutes plan the city now has which considers minute usage of all phones.

“What that allows us to do is to maximize a number,” Rains said. “If somebody goes over, we’re not being billed for it, because usually somebody else is using less minutes. We evaluated the number of minutes and we’ve sized our plan accordingly. And that has worked very well for us the last several years.”

The plan for the wireless modem use is for unlimited data.


Grants go toward community policing,
funding city's victims' rights program

(Posted Oct. 8, 2013)


Two grants approved by the City Council during Monday’s meeting will help the Police Department and the City Attorney’s Office Victims’ Right Program.

The Police Department grant is for $21,073, coming from the federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program.

According to the staff report accompanying the agenda item, “The Police Department will utilize $15,641 of the funds for overtime expenses to conduct various community policing activities to assist in the reduction of crime and help build community relationships.

“Another $2,932 of the funds will be used for community policing products and supplies for a variety of our programs including but not limited to Neighborhood Blockwatch, Crime Free Multi-Housing, school resource officers, Adopt a Wall program, graffiti abatement program, public education and our Public Safety Day. These events /programs have all been utilized to interact with citizens throughout our City in an effort to identify criminal problems and cooperatively implement solutions to decrease crime.

“The remaining $2,500 will used for a camera system to help assist in our graffiti abatement program which can also be used for crime reduction efforts in a variety of community issues.”

The City Attorney’s Office will get $12,100 from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office to be used toward the salary of a victims’ rights specialist, an amount to be matched by the city.

“For the 14th year, the city has been awarded this grant,” the staff report says. “This year's grant is $5,080 more than last year's grant amount.”

You’ll find a complete explanation of the city’s Victim Assistance Program at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/cityattorney/victims/



Mortuary moves ahead for zoning change;
odors, other complaints being investigated

(Posted Oct. 6, 2013, updated Oct. 7)


You’ll find the zoning request staff report here


Angels in Waiting, which has had problems setting up its mortuary business at 112 N. Sacaton St. ranging from being cited by the city for moving in illegal buildings to complaints from neighbors of offensive smells from the area of both the outside cooler for bodies and the outside biohazard waste container, is on the road to straightening out one roadblock.

In the meantime, the mortuary now faces more problems after a city inspection determined that the outside cooler was placed there without any permits or approvals.

Thursday night, the Planning and Zoning Commission sent a favorable recommendation to the City Council to change the zoning at 112 and 118 N. Sacaton to central business, which is more in line with other operations in the area.

The properties are now zoned for B-4, or community business zone, which has more restrictions than B-3, such as parking requirements and setbacks of buildings.

The north building, or 118 N. Sacaton, is now Stephani’s Pooch Parlor. The mortuary began at 112 N. Sacaton, then moved in manufactured buildings between the two addresses, both designated as historic landmarks. The 12-foot by 12-foot building was to be for an office for the mortuary and a 8-foot by 10-foot one was to be for storage.

The minutes of the Aug. 26 meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission note that the mortuary owner, Jennifer Deall, “was cited by code enforcement on June 4, 2013, for placing the building on the property without the appropriate approvals (building use determination, zoning approvals, permits, etc.).”

Deall was before the historic commission during that Aug. 26 meeting asking to:

• Move the fence back 20 feet from the front of the property to the rear of the main building.

• Paint the present permanent building at 112 N. Sacaton to brown with rust trim to match the nonhistoric portable building.

• Add electricity to one of the portable buildings.

• Place a courtyard between the portable buildings.

City Planner Laura Blakeman told the historic commission that city staff believed the portable buildings do not fit into the historic commercial character of the area or the lot, noting that the portable buildings “are designed to be used for residential purposes.”

Commission Cochairman Marge Jantz said the architecture of the portable building is not compatible with that of the commercial buildings, the portable building does not complement the adjacent historic buildings and painting the historic main Angels in Waiting building to match the portable building would not rectify the situation.

The historic commission denied Deall’s requests.

The minutes indicated Deall could then request a hardship waiver and if the commission denied that she could appeal to the City Council. No action has yet been taken.

The two buildings remain on the property.


The Historic Preservation Commission minutes of the discussion and Deall's presentation are here


Deall did not appear at Thursday’s Planning and Zoning Commission, instead sending an employee. The agenda was changed around to hear her case last, with calls made to see if Deall or a representative would appear for the zoning change hearing. The employee indicated she was not familiar with the request or what was happening.

City Planner Laura Blakeman said her office had received only one comment about the zoning request, but “it just relates to some odors recently encountered from the mortuary, the outdoor freezer area, not the zoning request.”

Commission Chairman Jeff Lavender asked the mortuary employee, Barbara Archambault, if the odor situation had been taken care of.

“To be quite honest, there is no odor,” Archambault responded. “I’m not sure; there’s gas, like from the sewer, I actually smelled that the other day. Not an odor from mortuary. I think it’s the sewer behind in that area.”

During public comment, Tracy Muller, center director for the Arizona Foundation for the Handicapped at 209 W. First St., spoke. A narrow alleyway separates the mortuary from the AFH complex.

Muller said her organization has concerns about odors.

“It’s not all the time, but there has been odors from there,” Muller said.

Muller also noted that the cooler in which bodies are stored is outside at the back of the mortuary, sitting in an area next to the alley.

“We do have clients that have witnessed the freezer door being opened and seeing the bodies inside,” Muller said. “It’s not protected from the house to the street.

“And they have a biohazard trash can outside that the lid is not secured.

“So my concern, in my field and working with people – we support 70 people at this building right next door – is the health concern and that all the requirements from the Health Department are being followed, because all of the equipment is outside and it is right next to our building and where our clients go.”

(A walk down the alley Sunday by CG News found the cooler and biohazard waste container are outside of the main building. The cooler was running. The biohazard container did not have a lock to secure the lid. There was an odor from the area, but not like the usual sewer gas smell. Wheeled stretchers similar to those used in hospitals are also stored outside. A chain-link fence surrounds the area, with dark material stretched over most of it to partially block the view along the alley. The gate to that area is not covered, allowing full view of the cooler, biohazard container and other items.)

Before the Planning Commission sent the favorable recommendation to the City Council for the zone change, Planning and Development Director Paul Tice was asked if there is a procedure to have Muller’s complaints investigated.

“I’ve already made a notation to do that, so staff will be following up on the outside freezer or equipment,” Tice replied. “I wasn’t familiar with that they had equipment outside. We will follow up on that.”

On Monday, Tice told CG News that Blakeman and a member of the Building Department had gone to the mortuary the next day (Friday) "and confirmed that the walk-in cooler for the bodies had been placed on the site without any Planning/Building approvals. We will be working with the business owner to get them into compliance."


Planning Commission asks council to make
Acacia Landing, Silverhawk homes fully legal

(Posted Oct. 3, 2013)


You’ll find the agenda at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/


Click on staff reports for individual cases



This many years after the fact, no one in the Casa Grande Planning and Development Department can explain why a certain zoning was allowed, homes were built and moved into and then 12 and a half years later the city changed the rules, making the homes basically illegal.

No one now on the planning staff was with the city in December of 1989 when the City Council approved a zoning change allowing single-family homes in R-3 zoning districts, which are basically areas for multifamily units such as apartments or condos. Likewise, no one now on staff was there when the City Council changed the rules in April 2001, prohibiting single-family homes in such districts.

In between those years, Acacia Landing subdivision north of Lowe's was built, as was Silverhawk subdivision north of Home Depot.

When the city changed the rules, those homes became what is known as legal nonconforming, or something that was grandfathered in.

The problem is that if a legal nonconforming home were to be destroyed by fire or other disaster, it cannot be rebuilt. The only replacement allowed would be a multifamily unit. That's not possible because the residential lots are too small.

Thursday night, the Planning and Zoning Commission was asked to send a favorable recommendation to the City Council to change the zoning for most of Acacia Landing and all of Silverhawk to R-1a, which would make the single-family homes fully legal.

City Planner Keith Newman told the commission that 257 homes in Acacia Landing are affected, along with 158 in Silverhawk. Acacia Lofts, composed of multifamily units, is not affected.

Newman repeated that all of the homes are now legal nonconforming, but pointed out that they could not be replaced if destroyed and cannot be added onto.

The problem was brought to the city's attention by an appraiser, Newman said, lead to an investigation and discussions with real estate agents and others affected.

"We realize there’s a problem here and that it creates problems if homes are destroyed or people want to resell their properties," Newman said, "so we felt that, hey, this rezoning is probably the most appropriate thing to do at this time.

"It is highly needed, due to the fact that it allows for all existing homes to be classified as legal conforming uses, not as grandfathered uses which they are today, allows existing homes to be added onto and/or replaced in the case of being destroyed by fire or other causes, and gives property owners the ability to refinance or sell their homes.

"These are the reasons why it’s necessary to do this instead of letting it stay in a state right now where it doesn’t benefit anyone, where they can’t even rebuild their homes if they are burned, they would have to build an apartment or a condo, which is just not possible."

Commission approval to send the favorable recommendation to the City Council was unanimous, with Cheri Edington absent, not excused, and Ruth Lynch on an excused absence.

In other action Thursday night, the commission:

• Sent a favorable recommendation to the council on a request to change zoning to central business for lots at 112 and 118 N. Sacaton St.

• Approved a conditional use permit request from Arizona Water Co. for an 8-foot fence around its equipment facility at 835 N. Arizola Road.


City receives financial reporting awards

(Posted Sept. 30, 2013)


The city issued this press release today:


The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) has given the city of Casa Grande several awards for its financial reporting.

The city received an Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Annual Financial Reporting for its Popular Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2012. The award is a prestigious national award recognizing conformance with the highest standards for preparation of state and local government popular reports.

In order to receive the award, a government agency must publish a Popular Annual Financial Report, whose contents conform to program standards of creativity, presentation, understandability and reader appeal.

This is the second year the City of Casa Grande has received a Popular Award. The 2012 Popular Annual Financial Report was mailed to residents via the city’s utility bill in January 2013.

GFOA also presented a Distinguished Budget Presentation Award to the city for its annual budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012. In order to receive this award, a governmental unit must publish a budget document that meets program criteria as a policy document, as an operations guide, as a financial plan and as a communications device. This is the 16th year the city has received this award.

Lastly, Casa Grande received an Award for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the fiscal year 2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). The CAFR outlines the city’s financial position and operating activities each year. This is the 22nd year the city has received this award.

The city of Casa Grande prepares these financial reports every year to illustrate where the money comes from and how it is spent. To view the Popular Annual Financial Report, Annual Budget and CAFR visit the city website at www.casagrandeaz.gov/dept/finance.


New subdivision plan pushes residential,
would also realign future Henness Road

The area in blue at upper left in the original Marabella subdivision area, (outlined in red), is commerce and business. That would be removed in the proposed plan, upper right. At left, another map shows the proposed rerouting of a future Henness Road.



(Posted Sept. 25, 2013)


As signs of an eventual improvement to the economy continue to pop up, developers have been taking initial steps toward Casa Grande projects, both commercial and residential.

The Planning and Zoning Commission has given a favorable recommendation to commercial land use changes east of Interstate 10 south of Kortsen Road. A residential builder has been putting up home on vacant lots in established subdivisions. And now, interest is shown in resurrecting the Marabella subdivision west of I-10 south of McCartney Road that has lain idle since 2009. The property is east of the city fire station on McCartney.

In 2006, the City Council approved a planned area development for Marabella and a minor amendment to allow some commercial land use. A preliminary plat was approved that year by the P&Z Commission, but has no expired because of inactivity at the site.

The new owners have been before the P&Z Commission asking for a major General Plan amendment to change the land use remove the 27 acres of commerce and business areas, replacing them with what is known in the General Plan as Neighborhoods, which is mostly residential. That request has received a favorable recommendation to the City Council. If approved by the council, the area will be in conformance with the General Plan, which called for Neighborhood category in that area.

As part of the changes, City Planner Laura Blakeman told the commission, the owners also want to realign the future Henness Road. The existing future alignment starts at the southeast of the Marabella property running along a natural gas pipeline northeast to McCartney Road, but along the way cuts through property that is not part of the development.

Chris Morgan of United Engineering Group that is representing the Marabella owners, told the commission that when the property was purchased at the beginning of this year it was noticed that the zoning is not in compliance with the General Plan classification of Neighborhoods.

"The second thing we noticed was the road (Henness) that went through. There was some design concerns and safety concerns. It's not just out of our own goodwill that we would move the road. Some of that is off site and then we’ve got to coordinate with an adjacent property owner. That being said, it did eat up three and a half acres of usable area on the site, which my client reminds me of repeatedly. But we think that will significantly improve the circulation through here."

The alignment of Henness approaching McCartney would also be changed, Morgan said, because the sharper curve shown in the original plat violates current city code "and we’d never get it approved if we tried to submit it the same way. So, like I said, it’s not just out of the goodness of our heart that we’d be doing it. It has to be done."

Because most of the commerce and business area was at the southeast of the subdivision, Morgan said, "we look at it from a standpoint of, OK, how long does it take before that becomes a viable use? 

"You have to consider it’s off McCartney Road, traffic would have to come and access down through the residential area. The use on the eastern side is state land right now. So we looked at that and thought best case scenario, the access through a subdivision. Worst case scenario, you wait until state land sells and then you access through there. 

"So we looked at it and thought, we just don’t think it makes sense."

Morgan said his company will be bringing a proposal to amend the original planned area development and proposals for the entire project. "That’s where we’ll identify lot mix and the final alignment of the road and everything else," he said.


As times and circumstances change,
so must city's planning for the future

(Posted Sept. 22, 2013)


The staff report, with maps and developer's submittal and proposals, is here


As times and circumstances change, so does city planning.

A case in point is what is now known as Casa Grande Commons, running north from the Promenade mall past Cottonwood Lane (or Storey Road on that side of Interstate 10) to Kortsen Road.

Back in 2005 when the mall was platted, so was that stretch of land, touted as future homes of perhaps an auto mall, offices, schools, perhaps a medical complex, apartments, condos and single-family residences.

That whole thing flagged during the economic meltdown and the planned area development was sold to Walton International Group, a Canadian land investment company that has bought land along I-10 in both Casa Grande and in the Eloy area. The name was changed from Casa Grande Regional Shopping Center development to Casa Grande Commons.

Interest in developing the area has picked up, but a factor not considered in the original plans has arisen: the Arizona Department of Transportation has decided that Kortsen Road will be the site of the next I-10 interchange in Casa Grande.

The city has hired a consulting firm to figure out what right of way and other properties will be needed for the interchange, as yet far in the future.

A hitch for Casa Grande Commons is that the initial plan called for housing areas to be built south of Kortsen to the east of I-10.

With a major interchange in the future and more traffic expected as Phoenix Mart ramps up and other development comes in, that's not a good location for housing.

Walton came before the Casa Grande Planning and Zoning Commission on Sept. 5 with a proposal to basically turn that housing area from a Neighborhoods land use into a Commerce and Business use, pushing housing further to the east. The Walton request is in an area between Cottonwood and Kortsen.

Such requests are known as major General Plan amendments and under state law require two hearings at separate locations. The second hearing was last Thursday, resulting in the commission sending a favorable recommendation on the request to the City Council.

Several factors played into the Planning and Development Department's recommendation for a favorable recommendation, City Planner Laura Blakeman told the commission during the first hearing.

In addition to a future interchange, Blakeman said, "You also have the proposed Promenade Parkway major frontage road to I-10 that actually would transverse from the existing Promenade south of the site going north through the property and back around connecting to Mission Parkway, which would be a major collector, which is located between Florence Boulevard and Kortsen Road to the north. And in mid section you have Cottonwood Lane, or Storey Road."

Promenade Parkway now ends east of the Harkins theaters at the mall. Mission Parkway now ends at Cottonwood.

"Staff find that this Neighborhoods land use category change from residential to Commerce and Business actually is more compatible land use request than have the existing Neighborhoods in the area because of all these factors," Blakeman continued.

"The Neighborhoods currently abut this Promenade Parkway area and also have the Mission Parkway, a major collector, running through it. You have the I-10 to the west and you have Kortsen Road, a major arterial and the interchange at I-10 and Kortsen, which actually would influence more commercial type land uses than residential in this area.

"So given this proposed infrastructure in the area, staff finds this land use request to be more compatible than having existing residential Neighborhoods land use category. The existing zoning shows residential land uses, where you have high density residential, medium density residential II in the middle section and more high density residential to the south. Those are all actually east of the Promenade Parkway alignment and just west of the Mission Parkway alignment."

If the City Council gives final approval, Walton will apply for a zone change bringing the area into compliance with the General Plan.

The staff report for the agenda item shows that a Commerce and Business designation allows for:

• Single or “big box” retail.

• Enclosed or open-air regional retail shopping centers.

• Campus-style developments including offices, light manufacturing, flex-space, lodging and commercial services.

• Medical campus/hospital.

• Freeway, rail and auto-oriented retail or commercial.

• Transit terminals and park-and-ride facilities.

Commission member Joel Braunstein asked where the interchange study stands.

City Traffic Engineer Duane Eitel, the project manager for the studies, said Jacobs Engineering is just getting started on the preliminary study and it might be a year before it is completed, although the city has discussed with Walton some of the city's ideas.

Braunstein asked if it is really feasible to talk now about changing zoning on the property, given that the interchange might not get built.

Planning and Development Director Paul Tice replied that, "Really, it’s not a matter of whether that interchange is going to go through. This is identified as the next interchange that will happen in the I-10 corridor in Casa Grande. Our design report really is looking at the right of way that we might need for that interchange, the configuration and some of the more specific design details. But the decision on whether or not we’re going to have an interchange at this location has already been made, so there will be an interchange there."

ADOT said it chose Kortsen Road as an interchange rather than Cottonwood Lane because Cottonwood is too close to the present interchange on Florence Boulevard.

The Kortsen interchange study is not about whether it is the right location, but about how much right of way will be needed and what the configuration might be, Tice said.

Eitel added that, "One of the major things we want to do as development comes in is be able to tell them what right of way we need for the interchange and so on. The interchange is going in, it’s just exactly what it will look like and how much right of way is what the study’s figuring out."

Court Rich, an attorney with Rose Law Group representing Walton Development and Management USA, told the commission that reconfiguring the property to replace housing with commerce and business is seen as a way to maximize the potential employment along I-10.

In addition, he said, "We’ve got the Phoenix Mart project that’s going to be just east of here. Hopefully that will create a synergistic effect with the area, creating the ability to have many, many jobs and opportunities for all of Casa Grande there. The proximity to the existing mall obviously cries out for more employment center, more jobs, more opportunities. The future Kortsen interchange is obviously an important consideration.

"And part of why we’re doing this now is because we know that interchange is going to get built. There is some variability in the time when that will occur, but when the developer comes back in with their plans they’ll be able to work with your city to accommodate whatever design they ultimately come up with. If the property is not entitled, if it doesn’t have the right zoning, they’re not going to be in a position to work with the city to give right of way and plan appropriately for that.

"So I think the idea of planning along with the city for this process is a good one. It provides opportunities for the developer to maximize the benefit of the Kortsen interchange and provides opportunities to the city to work with the developer to try to make sure that that happens as soon as possible."

Braunstein said he believes the idea is good, but the timing is bad.

"We have a mall here that they said was going to create jobs and everything, and we lost the big box store (Best Buy), we’ve lost a couple of the stores," he said. "We have commercial buildings at Rodeo and Trekell (still vacant) I’m sure that were supposed create jobs.

"If the economy isn’t ready, will putting more commercial business up there, even with the interchange, just shift jobs and not create jobs?"

Rich replied that the city has identified the corridor along I-10 as future jobs areas.

"I believe that what you’re going to see is when that interchange moves forward that is going to present all kinds of opportunities," he continued. "And we’re trying to be there and be ready to capture those opportunities.

"And let me stress, we’re not talking about competing retails centers. These are office/business park opportunities, everything from schools to hospitals to regional type of services. The intent is not to come in and open a competing mall. That’s just not what we’re talking about."

The proposal set forth by Walton in requesting the land use changes says, "Casa Grande Commons project is positioned to become the hub for retail and health care services for Pinal County. The northern half of the project has been identified as an ideal location for a regional hospital and medical office campus, and support uses as it has direct access to Kortsen Road and the future Interchange. This access and visibility is vital to the success of any hospital or health services campus.

“Without revising the Neighborhoods portion to Commerce and Business, it is unlikely that an emergency-oriented hospital campus will develop at this location. With the change, and due to the size of the property, virtually all medical support offices and businesses could locate adjacent to the regional hospital to create a central medical campus with accessibility to all residents of the Casa Grande and the county."

Another section says, "It is consistently stated in the General Plan that the city desires new businesses to relocate or expand to Casa Grande. The creation of projects such as Casa Grande Commons provides the city with an example of a shovel-ready site that can accommodate nearly any new company's needs.

“The Casa Grande Commons development plan contemplates the development of major, job creating developments such as the regional auto mall and the regional hospital, medical office campus along with a variety of office complexes and retail. With the approval of this amendment (and the PAD Amendment that will follow), Casa Grande will be in a position to attract new industries to the region bringing new job and career opportunities to existing and future residents.

"The encroachment of the Neighborhood designation within the current Commerce and Business area west of Mission Parkway may impede the enhanced educational opportunities for Casa Grande residents because major educational facilities would not have enough space to locate within the area of the current Commerce and Business designation.

“Conversely, if designated as Commerce and Business, this property will be appropriately sized and located to accommodate either a higher education institution and/or a regional hospital/medical campus that could open the door to other medically-oriented educational entities such as specific medical training schools. With its multiple and direct interstate access points, this development has a strong possibility of attracting other educational institutions and vocational training companies to locate within Casa Grande."

Rich told the commission that Walton will return "with more specific planned area development plans, at which time you can say, you know what, I think where you’re going with this is wrong, I think we have that use over here or we have that specific use over there and this is something that doesn’t make sense.

"But until we get this designation, we can’t come back. I hope you’ll agree at the time you see it that it’s going to be something that’s appropriate."

No one from the public spoke on the issue during either meeting. Unanimous commission approval of a favorable recommendation came at the second hearing, with Braunstein on an excused absence.


It costs some big bucks to fuel
Casa Grande vehicles, equipment

(Posted Sept. 16, 2013)


You'll find the agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


It costs big bucks to put gasoline or diesel in all of the city's vehicles and equipment, estimated to be about $1,301,630 this year.

But because of contract negotiations with three fuel companies, Casa Grande will save about $1,652 over regular prices, the City Council was told during Monday night's meeting.

The gasoline and diesel will go to three sites: two 15,000-gallon tanks at the North Operations Center next to the city airport, two 10,000-gallon tanks at the South Operations Center below the railroad tracks and two 500-gallon tanks at the city landfill. 

Purchase of aviation fuel is not part of the contracts.

Public Works Director Kevin Louis told the council that fuel prices are based on the Phoenix weekly average market prices published by the Oil Pricing Information Services, or OPIS, recognized nationally for fuel pricing.

The contracts with the three companies will be for two years, locking the vendors into fixed pricing. The city has the option for renewing the contracts for three one-year periods.

"Senergy Petroleum will be providing gasoline to the north and south operations centers," Louis said. "The price we will be paying for the gasoline is $0.0299 (a gallon) below that OPIS price.

"SC Fuels will be providing the diesel fuel to the north and south operations centers and that will be at $0.0202 below to OPIS price.

"Our clear diesel for the landfill will be provided by Western States Petroleum, and that will be at $0.1200 above the published OPIS price."

Initial approval of the contracts was unanimous, with final approval expected during the next council meeting.

In other action Monday night, the council:

• Gave initial approval to a $100,000 contract to purchase crack sealing material for maintenance of city streets, helping prevent water from reaching the subsurface of a street.

• Accepted a $133,735 grant from Pinal Gila Council for Senior Citizens to continue the city’s senior meals and transportation program.

• Approved street closings for the Vista Grande Homecoming Parade on Oct. 4. The parade stages on Clements Road, goes south to McMurray Boulevard, west on McMurray to Arizola Road and north on Arizola to the school. It begins at 2 p.m. and is expected to last about 40 minutes.

• Approved submitting a $10,000 grant application for the city’s Animal Control spay/neuter program.


Phoenix Mart project hires construction
contractor, international marketing rep

(Posted Sept. 16, 2013)


Phoenix Mart, the long awaited international 1.7-million-square-foot international products showcase project on 500-plus acres just north of Florence Boulevard between Overfield and Toltec Buttes roads, has hired both a contractor for the construction work and an international marketing agency, the City Council was told Monday night.

"I did meet with them today, kind of outlined some things we’re concerned about from the local perspective," Mayor Bob Jackson said. "They have selected a contractor for the work. They also have hired a national firm to help launch the marketing of Phoenix Mart. They’re out of Chicago, FleishmanHillard, a very well known firm on the national and international scale." That company's website says it has 80 offices in 29 countries, including the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

"I think they’re moving forward," Jackson said. "They feel really good about where they area. I know staff’s been meeting with them."

The project, originally announced to open this October, has had some delays caused by difficulties in getting international work permits approved and other issues.

Modeled after similar ones in China and Dubai, PhoenixMart is a servicing center that allows companies to showcase their products and services to international markets.

A Phoenix Mart representative will speak during Friday's sold out Business Outlook Luncheon put on by the Greater Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce.


UPDATE:


The chamber of commerce presentation video is here


You can also watch the presentation on Cox Channel 11 in Casa Grande on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. 


The Phoenix Mart website is www.phoenixmart.com



Casa Grande works to meet state law
requiring mapping of aggregate areas

(Posted Sept. 15, 2013)


You’ll find the staff report, including details and maps, here


Arizona Revised Statutes are here

See the staff report for pertinent sections


SB1598 is here



The key word is aggregate, although the work that city planning staff went through to meet the new state law might have led to typing it as aggravate.

In brief, Senate Bill 1598 the Legislature passed and that went into effect in June 2012 requires that cities map out all land areas that have aggregate, defined as cinder, crushed rock or stone, decomposed granite, gravel, pumice, pumice and sand.

The theory behind the law, pushed by developers and industry, is that those aggregate areas should be part of a city's General Plan, marking them out so that other land uses such as subdivisions don't encroach upon them.

Meeting the letter of the law requires Casa Grande to make a major amendment to its General Plan, something that under state regulations requires two separate public meetings on separate dates. The first was during the Planning and Zoning Commission's meeting on Sept. 5. The second hearing, which also includes major plan amendments for commercial and residential development properties that would be affected by the future Interstate 10 interchange at Kortsen Road, is Thursday, Sept. 19, at 6 p.m. at the Vista Grande Library Community Room, 1556 N. Arizola Road. 

Staff reports and maps for the development properties are found at http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/.

As outlined to the P&Z Commission by Senior Planner Leila Demaree, the city also has to establish policies covering identified aggregate sources, using maps from the

State Mining Inspector's Office and the Arizona State Geologic Survey.

The state identified three active sites, operated by Casa Grande Sand and Gravel, FNF Construction and Tee Pee Construction. A fourth site, previously mined by Fisher Industries, is now closed. (Location maps are in the staff report).

"According to the report that staff got from the state," Demaree said, "historically these aggregates are found along flood plains, the washes, riverbeds or river deposits and also along mountain fronts (such as CG Mountain). There are also deposits on bedrock.

"In the city planning boundary, the majority of the aggregate areas are located within the agriculture (land use) area, which is about 11,190 acres, or 30.8 percent of the total aggregate areas. The total area within the planning boundary is approximately 36,366 acres."

Such mining operations are now conditionally allowed only in the city's I-2, or industrial, zones.

"However, Demaree continued, "under the I-2 zoning district we only have 82 acres of potential aggregate, which is about 1.17 percent of the total aggregate area within the city limits. The total aggregate area within the city limits is 7,046 acres."

There are also aggregate areas outside of the city limits, but within Casa Grande's planning area. Those are shown on the maps in the staff report.

One of the goals of amending the General Plan, Demaree said, is allowing aggregate resources to be extracted while preserving the ability to ultimately achieve the land uses set forth in the General Plan. Part of that will be through conditional use permits.

"For example," Demaree said, "a mining company will be coming to the city and proposing to mine an aggregate site, the city will be processing their application through a conditional use permit so that we can mitigate any impact between owners or properties, as well as maybe provide some buffers between one land use to another.

"Another strategy is requiring the mining reclamation plan from those mining companies for review and approval by the city that will result in land forms that can be developed for the intended future general land uses. That way we can prevent areas that will be mined and then the city will be left with a big open pit. An example is the ASARCO mining (pit).

"Another strategy that staff is proposing is requiring aggregate mining operations to provide an adequate buffer to mitigate adverse impacts on adjacent properties.

"The last strategy is establishing aggregate mining operations standards to minimize adverse impacts on the community, and we can achieve this through the conditional use permitting process."


A sea of parking spaces? Well ...

(Posted Sept. 8, 2013)


You’ll find the agenda at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/

Staff reports are below the agenda link


When you drive into the Casa Grande Shopping Center east of Colorado Street and Florence Boulevard you looking at a sea of parking spaces.

Plenty for each business, right?

Not always.

Rather than being platted as a single unit, the shopping center was divided into separate lots, each with a city parking spaces requirement depending upon the size of the store.

Lot 1 is the Great Western Bank, Lot 2 is Office Max and Dollar Tree, Lot 3 is JB’s restaurant, Lot 4 is a loan office, Lot 5 has Big 5 and Little Texas restaurant and soon to add space for relocating Pet Club, Lot 6 is Big Lots, Lucky Chinese restaurant and new space for Office Max to move into near the end of this month, Lot 7 is the present Pet Club and Lot 8 is to the north of there, housing various businesses.

It looks like there’s more than enough parking to accommodate Pet Club in its new location on Lot 5, but city regulations say otherwise.

When Pet Club decided to move there it required that the building be enlarged, pushing it to the east of the original plat line by 28.75 feet and requiring replatting of that lot.

A bigger building requires more parking.

The shopping center has shared parking agreement for all the lots within the site, but as City Planner Laura Blakeman explained to the Planning and Zoning Commission during Thursday’s meeting, the city code “requires that all parking for any types of land uses be provided on the lots for the intended land uses. If the site cannot accommodate all the parking spaces that’s needed, then there’s a code requirement that a conditional use permit can be requested, and you have to be approximately within 300 feet of the subject site to ask for the off-site parking.”

With Pet Club relocating to Lot 5, Blakeman said, that lot would require 105 parking spaces but has only 75.

The solution was a conditional use permit to allow Lot 5 to get an additional 30 spaces in Lot 2, south of Dollar Tree.

“Lot 2 has 330 parking spaces and with all the uses on Lot 2 they’re only required to have 162,” Blakeman said, “so there’s a surplus of 168 parking spaces within Lot 2.”

Simple?

Well, close enough for government work.


Zoning issue on west side goes beyond 
a church operating two illegal thrift stores

(Posted Sept. 7, 2013)


You’ll find the agenda at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/

Staff reports are below the agenda link


You’ll find an explanation of zoning districts here:

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/planning/planning-division/zoning/zoning-districts/


The immediate issue was that because of zoning restrictions a church has been operating illegal thrift stores on Cottonwood Lane for up to eight years. The long range issue was helping clean up what was probably bad zoning in the first place.

Thursday night, the Planning and Zoning Commission forwarded a recommendation to the City Council that the zoning at 655 W. Cottonwood Lane be changed to general business rather than the present light industrial, which prohibits such operations as The Ark Mash Stores Windows, Doors & More and Casa de Bling, both operated on the site by New Beginnings Nazarene Church.

“Both businesses have been operating as illegal nonconforming uses,” Keith Newman, a city planner, told the commission, “the Mash store since 2005 and Casa de Bling since about December 2012.”

To get around that restriction, Newman said, “Staff feels changing the zoning to B-2 would improve the relationship or compatibility with all surrounding properties, which are predominately residential to the south and to the west. Typically, B-2 zoning is a more compatible land use with residential than industrial zoning is because industrial zoning usually allows uses that are more intense than what commercial does.

“By putting a B-2 zoning here, the uses in the area will be less intense than they could be if Casa de Bling and Ark Mash Store were to move out and a large manufacturing use moved in that has more noise and other types of impacts.”

Council approval will take care of the immediate zoning issue, although the church will still have to come back to the city and submit applications for a business license and certificates of occupancy.

“At that time, we can check out other potential site issues,” Newman said.

The long range issue is that adjoining properties are also zoned light industrial. One now has an industrial operation, the other is a vacant manufactured house that began as a residence, was changed to a business and is now vacant.

Commission member Ruth Lynch asked whether the city has the authority to rezone those adjoining properties or if it has to be done at the request of the landowners.

“The use to the west is actually a home, a manufactured type home,” Newman answered. “About four or five years ago, a landscape company moved in but when they moved out the grandfathered rights to operate as a residential property was lost. That is now an industrial property, only an industrial business can move there. The other property is another industrial type assembly manufacturing type business. Those uses will stay there.”

As Planning and Development Director Paul Tice explained, “Under the code, both property owners and the city have the right to initiate rezonings. On your next month’s Planning Commission agenda you are going to see a city-initiated rezoning for some properties that we believe are improperly zoned in the city.”

But, it’s not quite that simple on the properties adjoining the thrift stores, Tice continued.

“Even if the city can directly rezone them,” he said, “it might be construed as a downzoning and we might be into a Prop. 207 damages issue, which would be a problem. So we wouldn’t want to rezone them without the property owners’ consent.”

Prop. 207 is a state law concerning takings of property or the lessening of their value.

Tice told Lynch that her point was well taken and that he had the same concerns.

“The property to the west is the house with some vegetation around it is zoned industrial,” he said. “It’s really a house. It became zoned industrial when this (thrift) property was zoned industrial. The owner owned both properties and they were zoned industrial because they were going to put some truck access through there, use it for industrial purposes. The property ownership has now been split. Basically, it’s a house that’s zoned industrial.

“We have had some conversations with potential purchasers who might want to rezone it back to a residential use. Really, that’s what it should be.

“It shouldn’t be industrial. In my opinion, it was improperly zoned industrial initially, not very compatible with the surrounding land uses. Maybe it could be an office, that would work from a land use compatibility standpoint.

“But for now it’s zoned industrial. Someone could come in and convert it to industrial use. But, you know, it doesn’t really lend itself well to industrial use, just because of its size.

“My suspicion is that the property owner eventually will come in for a rezoning.”

The industrial operation on the east side of the thrift stores might work as a more intense business zone, Tice said, but because the use is now industrial it’s probably zoned as best as it can be today.

Overall, Tice continued, “I think the industrial zoning in this area really, in my opinion, is inappropriate. We’re cleaning up about 95 percent of the problems, but we are leaving two remnants that in a perfect world would be in different zone, but the people have some property rights today that they are zoned industrial.”


Indoor softball/baseball batting, pitching
facility on Florence Boulevard approved

(Posted Sept. 5, 2013)


NOTE:

For the second time, a request for tall buildings has been delayed at the request of the developer, this time indefinitely. Scroll down for an earlier story about the request that was taken off of Thursday night's P&Z agenda and the agenda for the August meeting.


You’ll find Thursday's agenda at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/

Staff reports are below the agenda link


A conditional use permit for an indoor softball/baseball pitching and batting facility between Aaron’s and Mariscos Mazatlan in the Food City shopping center was approved Thursday night by the Casa Grande Planning and Zoning Commission.

Few details about how the facility would be operated were available, given that the applicant, Brian Ruggles of Casa Grande, did not show up for the meeting, nor was there a representative from the listed property owner, TDD Properties of Alberta, Canada.

Jim Gagliardi, a city planner, told the commission that the operation would be known as Hit Zone, offering six batting cages, both manual and automatically operated, a pitching tunnel, a concession area, hitting and pitching clinics and personal instruction.

Commission member Mike Henderson said that while he doesn’t know about batting cages, his prior experience with tennis courts and other racquet sports is that they make lots of noise.

He asked if noise would interfere with dining at Mariscos.

City staff did not make noise control a condition, Gagliardi responded.

“We figured two things,” he said. “Mariscos, in staff’s opinion, is seen as a casual dining versus a formal dining environment, and so we looked at that as kind of a different animal. If it were a place with tablecloths and silver, that would maybe be more of a concern because of the noise generated. Mariscos is known to have a large lunchtime draw, it’s very busy, it’s very popular, but it’s conducive more to a relatively high noise level, in staff’s opinion. Aaron’s Electronics, there was no comment received from them.”

The second factor to consider, Gagliardi said, “is we had also reasoned that if noise is a concern it can be an issue that is handled among the tenants and the landlord. It would hopefully resolve itself if there is a noise issue.”

Although applicant Ruggles did not show up, a summary statement from him is included in the agenda item staff report.

“Hit Zone is an indoor, year-round baseball facility designed to develop and enrich batting and pitching skills of baseball and softball players,” it says. “It is our mission to provide the best service, staff and equipment to meet the needs of our customers while generating a profit for the owners and investors. Working closely with area Little Leagues, high schools and colleges in the area, Hit Zone will strive to support and sponsor many local programs while providing a first class facility for our customers to train.

“Hit Zone will be an indoor batting/pitching facility that provides various services, including batting cages, a pitching tunnel and a concessions area. Throughout the year, Hit Zone will conduct numerous hitting/pitching clinics, personal hitting/pitching instruction and hitting leagues for all ages and skill levels.”

The summary said the automated batting cages “will be equipped with machines that allow baseballs or softballs to be thrown at four speeds, depending on the choices of the hitter. The manually operated cages will be equipped with manual feed baseball and softball machines, along with protective screens for living pitching. The automated cages will require tokens for use, which the manual cages will be rented by the hour and half-hour.”

An area known as The Bullpen, the summary continued, “will be the home to our pitching tunnel, which will be equipped with baseball and softball pitching mounds, target pitch trainers and radar guns for individual practice. This tunnel will be rented by the half hour and quarter hour.”

The concession area will be known as The Dugout, the summary says, describing it as “a food and drink lounge area designed as a waiting area for parents and nonparticipating visitors to hang out while others use the facility. The dugout will open with the sale of drinks, candy, hot dogs and other small concession items. As business in the facility increases, the menu at the dugout will increase accordingly.”

Approval of the conditional use permit was unanimous, with member Fred Tucker on an excused absence.

In other action Thursday night, the commission:

• Approved a request to change signs at what has been Casa Grande Mercado, south of Florence Boulevard west of Interstate 10. The property is being renamed Casa Grande Health Center.

• Sent a favorable recommendation to the City Council on a request to rezone a 2.14 acre site at 655 W. Cottonwood Lane from garden and light industrial to general business. New Beginnings Church of Nazarene has been operating Casa de Bling and The Ark Mash Stores Windows, Doors & More as illegal nonconforming uses under the present zoning. The church will also be required to obtain business licenses and certificates of occupancy for both operations.

• Approved a request to allow Pet Club, moving into new space in Casa Grande Shopping Center, to use adjoining parking spaces.

Three agenda items were requests for major amendments to the city’s General Plan. Under state law, such requests required two hearings, on different dates and at different locations. The second hearing and a final vote on the requests will be at 6 p.m. on Sept. 19 at Vista Grande High School library.

This year’s considerations are:

• A request by the city, required by a new state law, to include aggregate mining areas in the General Plan.

• A request to change land use on 175 acres south of Kortsen Road east of I-10 from neighborhoods to commerce and business.

• A request to change land use on 27 acres south of McCartney Road west of I-10 from commerce and business to neighborhoods.


Earlier story about tall buildings request

(Posted July 26, 2013)


A request for major changes in a commercial area behind the outlets center at Interstate 10 and Jimmie Kerr Boulevard, including a 110-foot-high hotel and a 165-foot high apartment building, is the main item on the Casa Grande Planning and Zoning Commission’s agenda for the Aug. 1 meeting.

The city Planning and Development Department has recommended denial. If the commission decides to approve the application anyway, the department asks for several changes to scale down and soften the look of the area, which would be known as Station II.

The meeting, open to the public, is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

The application is an amendment to an earlier approved planned area development for the site, north of Jimmie Kerr Boulevard.

“This PAD amendment seeks to change the land uses to major commercial residential/retail, senior care facility uses, commercial, business and service uses, indoor and outdoor recreation and proposes urban designed buildings and form, such as a 110-foot-high hotel building, a 165-foot high rise apartment building, six-level parking garage, four-story anchor store, single store retail with office above and building heights up to 75 feet,” the staff report says.

“To help put the building heights proposed within the Station II development into perspective, the tallest building that exists today in Casa Grande is the Abbott Labs cooling tower building which is approximately 200 feet in height. The Francisco Grande hotel is approximately 90 feet.”

The staff report notes that the area is slowly transforming from rural to suburban and will eventually become a major southern gateway to the city and downtown area.

“As such, staff does not have an objection to the creation of a commercial development at the Station II site,” the report says. “Staff simply believes that the building heights and perimeter building setbacks proposed in the Station II PAD take too drastic of a step in this direction and that a design that has a more gradual transition would be appropriate.

“Accordingly, in order for the proposal to meet the PAD criteria in regards to building heights and setbacks, staff has suggested a gradual transition of building heights and increased perimeter setbacks.”

Those recommendations, most involving a conditional use permit, are in the chart above.

“Staff recommends the commission recommend to City Council that the major amendment be denied due to the following requirements not being met:

• “The proposal does not meet the "Spatial Form and Design" of the General Plan 2020 Commerce and Business Land Use Category.

• “The proposal does not meet City Code section 17.40.020.1 (PAD Architecture) in that the proposed building heights are not compatible with the surrounding developments.

• “The proposal does not meet City Code Section 17.40.020.N. (PAD requirements) in regards to perimeter building setbacks.

• “The proposal does not meet City Code Section 17.40.020S.a.i. that the building(s) or shopping center shall be located at the intersection of two arterial roadways or have frontage on an arterial roadway and be immediately adjacent to an interstate highway.”

The report says that if the Planning Commission were to forward a favorable recommendation to City Council regarding the Station II PAD, staff would suggest conditions of approval including those in the above chart.


Two Homeland Security grants will upgrade
communications on Casa Grande's west side

(Posted Sept. 3, 2013)


You’ll find the agenda item at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


Casa Grande is spending $108,218 in federal Homeland Security grant money to upgrade emergency radio services on the far west side of the city.

That has been a problem area for a long time, given that the present radio system is not powerful enough to always pick up calls from police cars or handheld units.

The first contract is for $60,696 to install a radio repeater station that will boost the signals. The second contract, at $$47,522, is for a microwave link to carry the signals to a tower on Casa Grande Mountain and then to the public safety communications center in the old police station on Marshall Street.

The equipment will be installed on a tower shared with a cell phone company near Highway 84 and Interstate 8. That means about a 25-mile microwave link.

According to the staff report accompanying the agenda item at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, “The outlying repeater/receiver site will receive audio from a mobile or portable radio and transmit the signal by microwave to a site, where it will be compared to other signals and the best one will be sent to the radio repeater to rebroadcast the transmission at a higher wattage, thus providing a broader coverage area of the transmission.

“This site will provide improved coverage not only for Casa Grande police officers on a daily basis in the western portion of the city, but will also be available for any law enforcement agency that is requesting assistance and unable to communicate on their radio system.”

Mike Brashier, who commands the Police Department’s Communication Division, said the new equipment will also be compatible with any changes in police or fire radios that the city may make in the future and will also improve radio reception and transmission to the north in the Val Vista Road and Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway areas.

Answering a question from Councilman Karl Montoya, Brashier said, “By the planning maps that we had configured by the vendor, yes, it should provide additional coverage in that area. We’re estimating that it will probably be somewhere around 75-square-mile area, which should give coverage.”

Brashier said the new tower near I-8 will be shared with a cell phone company and that in the future the city will reserve space on any new communication site. The new tower, he said, will also allow expansion for the use of data transmission to emergency vehicles.

The two grants from Homeland Security are part of the Operation Stonegarden project, a DHS effort to combat illegal arms and drug and human trafficking, along with immigration enforcement.

In other action Tuesday night, the council:

• Approved an educational service agreement with Central Arizona College allowing city recruit firefighters and sworn staff to get college credit for specialized training conducted by city personnel at city facilities at no additional cost. The college credits will apply towards the fire science degree program.

• Approved the $32,321 purchase of a Physio Control Life Pack 15 Twelve-Lead Heart Monitor medical device used by Fire Department paramedics.


Who's responsible for cutting and trimming?






(Posted Aug. 27, 2013)


You’ll see examples around the city.

Tree branches overgrowing a stop sign. Shrubbery along a sidewalk at a shopping center exit that has grown so tall and wide that you have to pull into the traffic lane to get a view of the street. Sometimes new shrubbery has been planted in your sight line, such as at the new mattress store and soon to be restaurant on Florence Boulevard, again forcing you to creep into the traffic lane.

Who’s responsible for cutting and trimming?

City guidelines are at the link below:                              


        http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/06/TreeTrimming.pdf


City releases document outlining
qualifications for police captains

(Posted Aug. 17, 2013)

(Updated Aug. 19 to add link to documents)

(Update late Aug. 19: Request received final approval Monday night from the City Council)


Scroll down on this page for earlier story on the reorganization plan, including background documents


A draft copy of the job requirements for two captains that Chief Johnny Cervantes wants to hire as part of a reorganization of the Casa Grande Police Department shows the minimal education and experience requirements.

There is also a draft table of organization chart showing that the new captain commanding the Patrol Division would oversee three lieutenants in the graveyard, swing and day shifts. The second captain would command the Criminal Investigations Division.

The reorganization plan, up for final approval by the City Council during Monday night’s meeting, would demote the present three division commanders to lieutenant.

They are Scott Sjerven of Special Operations, Mike Keck of Criminal Investigations and Kent Horn of Patrol.

It was pointed out during the initial discussion of the plan during the Aug. 5 council meeting that recruitment for the captain positions would be both outside and inside the department, meaning that the three present commanders could apply.

The draft qualifications requirements do not list salary ranges.


The documents may be found here


Below is the qualifications document released by the city:


THIS IS ONLY A DRAFT AT THIS POINT


Police Captain


GENERAL PURPOSE:


This is a professional level administrative position responsible for the management, supervision and technical police work as assigned by the police chief. This position is responsible for decision making, independent

judgment in interpreting rules and regulations and applying state law and city ordinances. Much latitude is permitted for independent action within the framework of the department and the city.


PRIMARY DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:


The following duties ARE NOT intended to serve as a comprehensive list of all duties performed by all employees in this classification, only a representative summary of the primary duties and responsibilities. Incumbent(s) may not be required to perform all duties listed and may be required to perform additional position-specific duties.


• Directs and administers police division activities; coordinates activities to ensure work performed meets the needs and standards of the department and the city.

• Serves as an integral part of the department’s management team and, as such, is responsible for coordinating and fostering interdivisional, interdepartmental and department/citizen relationships.

• Commands, organizes and directs activities of subordinate personnel as required; directs the training and development programs of subordinate personnel.

• Studies crime trends and adjusts or makes recommendations regarding staffing strength, assignment and prioritization.

• Supports the department’s and the city’s policies, goals and objectives and works with city management and staff to achieve such goals.

• Performs a variety of specialized and generalized law enforcement administrative work related to the functions and services of the Casa Grande Police Department, including establishing community, business and neighborhood relationships and groups to interact with the department.

• Performs a variety of specialized functions in areas of expertise, including but not limited to patrol and shift scheduling, internal affairs, volunteer services, community affairs, support services and related functions.

• Reviews and investigates cases as necessary, makes appropriate referrals, investigates complaints, and may conduct internal investigations; makes recommendations of findings to police chief.

• Performs other duties as assigned or required.


SUPERVISION EXERCISED:


Police sergeants, officers and technicians.

(supervising of lieutenants has not yet been added)


MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS:


Education and experience:

Bachelor degree in law enforcement, criminology, criminal justice, public administration, or closely related field and seven years of experience as a police officer, including two year's supervisory experience, or an equivalent combination of education and experience.


Necessary knowledge, skills and abilities:

• Knowledge of Police Department policies and procedures.

• Knowledge of modern law enforcement management principles, practices and methods.

• Knowledge of city, county, state and federal laws, regulations and ordinances.

• Knowledge of the Arizona criminal justice and court systems, procedures and protocols.

• Knowledge of law enforcement methods, practices and procedures, including case laws governing arrest, rules of evidence, probably cause, and search and seizure.

• Knowledge of strategy and tactics for management and deployment of personnel and equipment in complex tactical and emergency situations.

• Skill in effectively supervising, leading and delegating tasks and authority.

• Skill in analyzing complex law enforcement and security issues and developing solutions.

• Skill in assuming command level responsibilities and making appropriate decisions, which assuring compliance with department and division goals and objectives.

• Skill in interpreting laws and regulations, making independent decisions, maintaining composure and working effectively under stressful conditions and emergency situations.

• Skill in directing work and holding staff accountable for successful outcomes.


Special requirements:

Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification; must possess state of Arizona driver’s license and clear criminal record.


Physical demands/work environment:

Work is performed outdoors and in various law enforcement facilities’ must maintain a level of physical fitness to meet department standards.


Don't kill extinguishment credits,
City Council resolution urges state

(Posted Aug. 16, 2013)

(Update late Aug. 19: The resolution was approved Monday night by the City Council)


You'll find the agenda here


A resolution urging the Arizona Department of Water Resources not to slowly do away with grandfathered irrigation rights extinguishment credits is the main item on the agenda when the Casa Grande City Council meets Monday.

The meeting, open to the public, is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

Other agenda items include final approval for adding to captains to the Police Department and demoting the three present division commanders to lieutenants, purchasing grass seed for the golf course and a $748,636 contract for slurry sealing of city streets.

The water credits resolution, minus the whereas and therefore, says the Arizona Groundwater Code of 1980 assured Pinal Active Management Area grandfathered irrigation water rights holders the extinguishment conversion credits forever.

“In the Pinal AMA, where the economy is primarily agricultural, the management goal is to preserve that economy for as long as feasible while considering the need to preserve groundwater for future non-irrigated uses,” the resolution says, “Currently, when property owners cease agricultural activity the Pinal AMA issues extinguishment credits, which allow the existing water rights to be converted to municipal and industrial use. The existing conversation ratio provides roughly enough credits to prove a (100-year) assured water supply for development purposes. The extinguishment credits have significant value as a property right.”

The resolution continues that, “The goal of preserving an important part of the Pinal AMA economy is now being achieved with an agricultural economy that continues to experience growth while producing just under a billion dollars in receipts from crop and livestock sales annually, as well as creating many new jobs and attracting related industry.

“The goal to protect water for future non-irrigated use is being realized under the old system of extinguishment credits as investors often hold large swaths of projected development property, which are currently in productive agricultural use, until the time to convert arrives.”

Prior to 2007, the resolution says, “the Pinal AMA experienced unchecked and runaway growth which led to a special rulemaking effective in 2007 that, in part, purported to encourage early extinguishment of agricultural grandfathered groundwater rights in the Pinal AMA so extinguishment credits could be used by developers. The plan initially adopted in 2007 would systematically and eventually reduce the farmer’s amount and value of extinguishment conversation credits to zero without farmer compensation.

“However well meaning the plan was intended, it was ill conceived and based on faulty premises. Fear of the negative effects of this plan on the agricultural industry and existing irrigation districts led to an amendment to the plan in 2009 that stalled the implementation of the plan but did not change the formula which will eliminate the extinguishment credits for converting irrigated land. If allowed to begin Jan. 1, 2014, it may inadvertently render the goals of the Pinal AMA unachievable.”

The resolution says that, “The Pinal agricultural economy may be seriously jeopardized well in advance of any development if farmers must decide whether to retire their grandfathered agricultural water rights and get out early with full conversion credits or to continue farming and see their conversion credits and the credit’s associated value disappear to zero.

“The water protected for future development by investors holding agricultural land and water conversion credits until development might become feasible will also be forced to decide whether to hold the land in farming and lose the water conversion rights or to cash out now taking the conversion credits elsewhere in the Pinal AMA.”

In addition the resolution says, “the administrative rulemaking regarding these extinguishment credits in 2007 was conducted without the inclusion, or knowledge, of most Pinal AMA farmers, investors, communities, agriculturally related business, economic development organizations, lenders, Pinal legislative representatives, and community and county leadership.

“The rule may be counter-productive to achieving the Pinal AMA goals of protecting the Pinal agricultural economy as long as feasible while reserving water supplies for future non-irrigated use. The goals are being realized and accomplished efficiently in accordance with the grandfather groundwater irrigation water rights given Pinal AMA Farm-land in the original 1980 Arizona Ground Water Code and the administrative rules in place prior to 2007.”

The resolution contends that, “The reduction of farmland equity without compensation and a rule reducing the amount of extinguishment credits that forces both farmers and investors to make decisions now that they would otherwise not want or need to make until a more appropriate time is onerous and may be harmful to the economy of areas within the Pinal AMA.”

It says the mayor and City Council resolve that:

• “The City of Casa Grande hereby respectfully requests that the Arizona Department of Water Resources act to repeal the provisions of Rule 12-15-725, as first adopted in 2007, that use an allocation factor of less than 100 when calculating the extinguishment credits for extinguishing a grandfathered right in the Pinal AMA.

• “Casa Grande hereby respectfully requests that the Arizona Department of Water Resources maintain the original irrigation grandfathered water rights and extinguishment credit framework established in 1980 Arizona Groundwater Code, which has allowed the Pinal AMA to consistently achieve its

goals, benefitting all segments of the local economy while still protecting water for future non-irrigated uses.”



Like any homeowner, the city
has its monthly billings to pay

(Posted Aug. 14, 2013)


Running a city is much like running a household. Pay the bills, fix the car, buy gas, hire an exterminator to get rid of bugs around the house.

Except that you’ll never see an electric bill for $98,600, one for $335,425 for insurance and another at $29,925.05 for babysitting.

(Well, actually, it was the payment to the Pinal County sheriff for jailing prisoners for the month of June, but it’s sort of like babysitting.)

At each City Council meeting there’s an item early in the agenda called Claims, which is what the city has paid out.

The claims listed during the last council meeting were for July 12, 18 and 25 and Aug. 1.


You’ll find the complete list of claims on the Aug. 5 agenda here


The highest payments were $335,425.45 to United Healthcare Insurance Co. for August employee coverage insurance premiums, $298,069.44 to Haydon Building Corp. for work on the new Gila Bend Highway interceptor sewer.

Charges from the various phone companies, both landline and cell, that the city uses ran to $14,035.21, proving that contrary to the saying, talk isn’t cheap.

The electric bills totaled $98,660.33 for both Arizona Public Service Co. and the San Carlos district.

Arizona Water Co. charged the city $75,049.74 for water.

The Southwest Gas billings came to $1,168.20.

As with many households, the city also hires a housekeeper, paying $18,209.98 for janitorial services.

Fuel for both the north and south Public Works facilities cost $73,415.95, with another $39,227.53 for aviation fuel for the city airport.

Branham’s Exterminating Co. was paid $1,110 for both pest control and bee removal.

The company that does the city’s utilities billings charged $8,637.23 in a combined bill for May and June.

Other major costs were for vehicle maintenance, including auto parts, servicing, tires replacement, towing and replacing a windshield.

Another payment was $24,377.13 to the Pinal County Attorney’s Office for cash seized by the Casa Grande Police Department. That money goes into a special fund for the department that is overseen by the county attorney.

Taking care of pets is also an expense for the residents who have them. The city isn’t much different, paying $1,116 to Casa Grande Animal Hospital for spaying and neutering and shots for animals held at the Animal Control Department.

And, as many homeowners do, the city also hires help for around the yard. Those are prisoners doing some community service time helping clean parks and other areas. At 50 cents an hour, the city paid $1,29.50.


Landscape maintenance bid goes to company
from Tucson; city says local workers are used

(Posted Aug. 12, 2013)


You'll find the staff report, bids sheets and other documents here


A $77,800 contract for landscape maintenance on city properties has been awarded to a company from Tucson, beating out four Casa Grande firms, one from Eloy and one from Sahuarita

How many local employees are used by Environmental Earthscapes, going by the name of The Groundskeeper, has not been answered but the company has 16 other accounts in Casa Grande.


Scroll down for earlier story about where the work will be done


During the discussion before the contract award, Councilwoman Mary Kortsen asked if the Tucson company uses local personnel.

Community Services Director Bill Schwind replied that, “The company is based out of Tucson; however, for the 16 local contracts they do use local services.”

Those contracts are listed in the staff report as

Acacia Properties, three Chase bank locations, Chili’s restaurant, Discount Tire, In-N-Out Burger, Maddox Estate Town Homes, the former Outlets at Casa Grande, Promenade Smiles dental office, Tri-Valley Plaza and Bella Vista, Las Brisas, Silver Mesa, Saguaro Gardens and Villa de Sonora apartments.

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons, addressing Schwind, said she likes to see local businesses getting contracts and does understand that the company has 16 local accounts, but, “I’m really curious about how many of their employees are in the city. Do you have any idea?”

Schwind said he did not know but would get the information.

“Just so we have it,” Fitzgibbons said. “I think it’s important. Having 16 contacts, I’m sure they have to have quite a few employees here. So I think that helps us to be able to share the information with other bidders in the community, we can let them know who they employ, how many people are from this area.”

The other six firms’ bids were $77,900 from JNC Landscaping, $79,000 from Epifini Landscaping, $81,600 from Guerrero Landscape and $82,500 from Tri Valley Landscaping, all of Casa Grande; $79,489 from Chacon’s Landscaping & Irrigation of Eloy and $245,464 from Titan Landscape of Sahuarita.

The staff report says the work includes landscaping within city facilities, rights of way, medians, entryways, retention basins and other area.

“These areas include approximately 500 trees (trimmed to eight to 10 feet) and over 1.6 million square feet of decomposed granite areas and more in the way of bushes, groundcover, etc.,” the report says.

“Contracting for this service allows us an economical way to provide developed landscape maintenance (instead of) increasing the Parks Division work force or purchasing additional equipment. Parks Maintenance staff will continue to have regular maintenance responsibilities within each of the areas, such as irrigation and electrical maintenance/repair, vandalism repairs, equipment maintenance/repair, palm tree trimming and contract oversight and coordination.


Earlier story on where work will be done


(Posted June 28, 2013)


As cities grow, there becomes more and more landscaping to be taken care of.

In many cases, it’s cheaper to contract out the work than it is to hire more city staff, given the taxpayer burden of wages, insurance and retirement costs.

That’s why Casa Grande is calling for bids for landscape maintenance at some city buildings and other areas.

The bids are to be turned in by July 9, with award of a contract tentatively scheduled for the Aug. 5 City Council meeting.

According to the call for bids, the work includes the contractor providing all labor and equipment needed for the job. The requirements say the landscaped areas must be maintained “at least bi-weekly or as needed, more often if necessary from March 1-Oct. 31 and at least monthly or as needed, more often if necessary from Nov. 1-Feb. 28.”


If you’re wondering about your part of the city, these areas are included:


Public safety facilities

Fire Station #502, 1479 E. Ninth St.

Fire Station #503, 3305 N. Piper Ave.

Fire Station #504, 1637 E. McCartney Road.

Public Safety Facility, 373 E. Val Vista Blvd.

Golf

Greens retention basin At Dave White Municipal Golf Course on the north side, back nine, adjacent to Hole 15.

Links detention basin on the east side of Hole 1 and south side of Hole 2 ,including Tract F along The Links Way.

Medians and rights of way

Cottonwood Lane Median I east of Henness Road alignment, just west of the I-10 overpass.

Cottonwood Lane Median II from Trekell Road east to Henness Road.

Desert Shadows right of way north of Bisnaga Road, south of Rodeo Road, only along screened block wall adjacent to Desert Shadows.

Desert Sky entryway south of Kortsen Road on Thornton Road, east side of Thornton Road.

Henness Road median from Florence Boulevard north to Cottonwood Lane.

Lakes right of way on west side of Pinal Avenue from Casa Grande Lakes Boulevard South.

Highway 84 underpass landscaping, includes all median and right of way areas that have been improved with plant material and decomposed granite, plus additional undeveloped areas.

Peart Road median From Florence Boulevard north to Kortsen Road, including the four intersection at Peart and Kortsen.

Pinal Avenue median from Bisnaga Road north to Gila River Indian Community border, north of Val Vista Road.

Pinal Avenue east side right of way from O’Neil Drive to Kortsen Road.

Retentions

Highway 84/Thornton Road, to include all landscaped areas within the boundaries of the basin at the southeast corner of Highway 84 and Thornton Road, from road to fence.

Mission Valley Trail from Kortsen Road east from Trekell Road the until road ends and southeast corner of Mission Valley subdivision.

Parkview retention basin, including all right of way and retention areas within the boundaries of the basin to the street on the west side of Arizola Road and north of Mesquite Elementary School.

Sandalwood retention basin/right of way on Arizola Road, McMurray Boulevard and Clements Road.

Smoketree retention basin, on west side of Colorado Street, south of Sunset Drive, north of Manor Drive.

In addition to landscaping maintenance and tree trimming, the work requires that the areas be kept free of weeds and trash and that all walks and bikeways will be swept and cleaned.


Life on Main redevelopment plan
OKd, but prep work still needed

(Posted Aug. 8, 2013)


The project website:

http://www.life-on-main.com/


Approval Monday night (Aug. 5) by the City Council of the master plan for the Life on Main project to redevelop areas on both sides of Florence Street south of the railroad tracks doesn’t mean earth movers and construction workers will move in immediately.

There’s still the nuts and bolts work of rezoning the area, doing some initial work to make the area more attractive and – a BIG and – finding the money to make it a reality.

Monday night’s unanimous approval was basically routine, passing on the final draft. The council has long been familiar with the concept, having sat through earlier presentations and having attended workshops and open houses for the public.


A series of stories in detail about Life on Main, including historical background of the area and sites within it, is under SPECIAL, above


In brief, the city has little by little bought about 15 acres of land for eventual redevelopment.

A major part of the plan is preserving the Casa Grande Hotel and Shonessy House and building a historic plaza between them. The plan also calls for areas for restaurant, office, light industrial and residential use. A live-work concept is envisioned where there might be living areas above stores or offices. Elliott Park would be enlarged and renovated and eventually a pedestrian bridge would link the part of downtown north of the tracks with the southern area.

“We don’t anticipate this would be a plan that would sit on the shelf, but really something that would have life and steps that we can take,” Senior Management Analyst Ben Bitter told the City Council during a short introduction to the plan. “Whether or not we have money today or tomorrow, there’s steps that can be taken immediately.”

Some of those steps were brought out as the council discussion continued.

Addressing Bitter, Councilman Ralph Varela said, “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity, because I think all of us have really strived to ensure that all parts of the community are connected and I think this one really does connect us to the south side area, which is of great interest in making sure that the resources of the city are spread throughout the city.

“You mentioned that this won’t be sitting on the shelf and there may be steps to show. Can you explain what some of those steps may be before we get to where we finalize the optimum goals?”

Things that can be started right away, Bitter replied, include “start making improvements in Elliott Park, carry the improvements that were done on Florence Street through the downtown area, tie that over the railroad tracks and really start connecting the areas through a visual element of the road, the roadway improvements.

“Those types of things could be done for relatively minimal costs, using some of the funding that we have in place through impact fees or otherwise.

“We could certainly look at agreements with the Union Pacific Railroad to acquire some of their easement, to lease it. They don’t really sell it, because the Union Pacific holds those right of ways very dear, but long term leases where we could start improving some of those areas, even Union Pacific grants funds that are available.”

Some of those improvements along the tracks could be a trail system, safety fencing and landscaping.

“There are so many, many different options,” Bitter said. “Really, there’s about 10 pages of the plans that’s on the website. There’s myriad steps we could take.”

At one time, there was discussion of creating an incubator center in the area to help those wanting to start a business. Varela asked if that is still being considered.

“That was certainly one of the recommendations of the plan,” Bitter said. “That’s certainly planned for the area.

“Obviously, it takes a little more money to put the capital investment up front to create this incubator concept. If we were to use the Casa Grande Hotel maybe the startup costs wouldn’t be as much, but there’s obviously repair costs that we would need to go into both the hotel and the Shonessy House, the historic structures within the planning area. It’s certainly going to depend on the capital investment, but startup incubators are certainly a part of the master plan.”

Councilman Matt Herman asked if anything is being done to reach out to the private sector, offering investment opportunities.

“One of the great opportunities with this plan,” Bitter replied, “is it provides us an opportunity to really now move on and do some steps that are really zero cost for the city, such as going for a zone change.

“We may say, OK, now we want a planned area development zoning on this area and we’ll get it all ready and primed for development, where a develop could say, hey, look, they’ve got this Life on Main plan, they’ve got a zoning plan in place, it’s already taken a lot of the cost for a developer out of the equation.

“So they could come in where their startup costs to develop some of these sites may be a little bit lower. And that’s one of the true benefits of doing the master plan, in addition to getting to really decided for ourselves as a community what we want to see in the area.”

A planned area development, or PAD, allows the city to specify what would be allowed in an area and where, rather than, say, an overall catchall zoning of light industrial or commercial.

Councilman Dick Powell said, “I was really happy when I looked through the plan, the way it came out. I know there was a lot of input and a lot of discussion. And I think they did an excellent job.

“It’s amazing looking back in history. In 1879, the south side was where the town camped. That’s where we first began, so we’re coming back to our beginning, and it’s a circle.

“In a lot of communities, a railroad track, a river, something like that creates a fence between north and south. I love this pedestrian walk-over and I love the softening of the tree line along the railroad tracks. That goes back to the late 1800s, we have pictures of the trees on the south side, it was very pretty.

“I think if we look at the future of Casa Grande,” Powell continued, “Florence Boulevard just about divides north and south as far as our land mass. We’ve got a long ways to go to the south and this is providing such a nice gateway and I don’t think we’ll do anything but grow.

“And I think the effect on the downtown is going to be magnificent. I think it’s going to be an enhancement and just add to reasons to come down and be downtown, so I was really happy with it.”

Mayor Bob Jackson pointed out that the project area “is a gateway to town, no different than Pinal Avenue or Florence Boulevard or anything else. I’m glad that we’re finally looking to try to do some things to enhance that.”

The rezoning work should take a priority, Jackson said, “because going forward, there’s a huge private sector component there. Do we want to have a master developer come in and help us if we do that? If we want to do that, then we need to put out a request for proposals, and having the zoning in place would be a huge asset for development.

“I think certainly we need to do the PAD zoning so that we offer flexibility so they don’t have to go through a full entitlement process.”


Hiring two PD captains, demoting
commanders gets initial approval

The staff report was three paragraphs.

It is found in the agenda at 


Police management survey is here


Department action plan is here


Department strategic plan is here


A series of stories on how the police plan has been progressing is found in POLICE PLAN, filed under MORE, above right.

(Posted Aug. 6, 2013)

(Update late Aug. 19: The request received final council approval Monday night)


The Casa Grande City Council has given initial approval to spending $250,000 to create two captain positions in the Police Department, a move that would demote the three division commanders back to lieutenant.

The money and authorization were not included in this year’s city budget, City Manager Jim Thompson said, because the budget was done before a new police chief was hired.

The unanimous vote during Monday’s City Council meeting came after a half hour of discussions that included unhappiness from Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons that almost no information was made available to the public or to some council members.

The three-paragraph staff report says only:

“Staff recommends creating two new police captain positions and reclassify the positions of police commander to lieutenant as part of a departmental reorganization.

“The reorganization would allow for more proactive supervision during peak activity times, the ability to better manage critical incidents, and the ability to enhance proactive crime reduction strategies to address problem areas.

“The fiscal impact would be $250,000. Council contingency would be utilized to accommodate the additional costs of the reorganization.”

Fitzgibbons contrasted that to the two-page staff report and accompanying two-page bids list on a $77,800 landscape maintenance contract that was approved earlier in the meeting.


The background


Mayor Bob Jackson said part of the reorganization request came from a report given to the city near the end of 2010 by the ICMA Center for Public Safety, which is part of the International City/County Management Association. The city had hired ICMA to do the survey of the Police Department.

Jackson asked Police Chief Johnny Cervantes, hired in late March to replace Chief Bob Huddleston, for comments on the report.

“One of the advantages that I had coming in here was that ICMA report,” Cervantes said.

“One of the things that they recommended was that currently we have three commander positions. One of the things they talk about in that report was that the third position didn’t really have enough (duties) to support that, there wasn’t enough direct reports to support that third position and they recommended going down to two.”


From the report


That section of the ICMA report says:

Eliminate the position Commander – Special Operations

This position can be eliminated. Compared to other commander duties in the CGPD, this position is clearly the least demanding. With fewer than 15 direct reports, this position does not require a commander. The duties and responsibilities of special operations in the CGPD can be handled by a sergeant. The sergeant – Special Operations can be placed under the command of the Patrol Division commander.

According to the Police Department’s website:

“The Special Operations Division was formed July 2006 and is now the fourth division of the Police Department. Cmdr. Scott Sjerven (a sworn police officer) is the commander of this division. Special Operations encompasses several areas of the Police Department’s operation, to include Volunteer Services, Animal Control, School Resource Officers, Crime Prevention, Graffiti, alarms, community traffic unit, Crime Free Multi-Housing, Neighborhood Watch and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT).”

The other divisions are Communications, headed by civilian Mike Brashier (that division is not included in the chief’s request); Patrol, headed by Cmdr. Kent Horn, and Criminal Investigations, headed by Mike Keck. Horn and Keck are sworn police officers.


Cervantes continued that, “So one of the things I did do was take some observations and take a look at those during my initial three months here. And I concur with that. I think that we can do with just two command positions. And that would entail one commander (captain) position for Investigations and one for Patrol operations. That was part of the ICMA recommendations.”


How filled?


Councilman Matt Herman asked if the recruiting for the two captain positions would be open to officers now in the department or if it would be only recruiting from the outside.

It will be open to both, Cervantes replied.

“Obviously for any new position, there’s going to be some minimum qualifications and one of the qualifications could be an education requirement,” he said. “For that level, that type of salary, we’re going to have a minimum. Obviously, some management experience, as well. So anyone that meets those minimum qualifications from internally would be more than welcome to apply for those positions.”

Herman later said that during the council public safety briefing committee discussions Cervantes was asked in general about those who might be working toward an advance degree or further education.

“If one’s in the process of getting certifications or education and they show they’re trying to get that, will they be eligible, he was asked, and he said depending on circumstances. That would definitely be taken into account as long as they’re trying to do something or are on the way to certification. He doesn’t want someone discounted just because they were two to three credits short of some sort of degree, because he said the experience can be a real world education.”


From the report


The ICMA report touches briefly on education within the department.

“The command staff of the CGPD is made up on experienced and dedicated professionals,” it says. “With the exception of the (then) deputy chief, however, they collectively lack advanced education and are relying solely on their experiences in the CGPD to manage the agency.

“This lack of educational experience could be a contributing factor in the inability of the CGPD to successfully embrace a vision and a direction that would permit the organization to evolve with the community.

“It is strongly recommended that the command staff of the CGPD receive training and education in contemporary management and leadership and use this education to develop their own abilities and the abilities of their subordinates.”

Another ICMA recommendation says:

“Develop and implement a robust leadership development program and require continuing education for all supervisory and command positions.”


Councilman Ralph Varela asked Cervantes how the two captain positions would fit into the chief’s goals for the department.

“Let me start with one of the things that I think is critical to this reorganization – and that’s the lieutenant positions,” Cervantes answered.

“When it comes to critical incidents, and I’ll give you a perfect example … a few weeks ago we responded to an area of the city where a suicide occurred. We were trying to investigate that. Well, in trying to investigate that, a crowd formed, so there was some issues with the crowd and our ability to do what we needed to do.

“Fortunately, we had our command staff that did respond and I think the outcome of that was a result of our command staff being there to make those high level decisions during critical incidents, because this certainly could have turned for the worst and somebody could have gotten hurt if an issue was to explode.

“Well, that was daytime. Right now, we don’t have that command level for the weekends or the nighttime hours.

“That doesn’t mean that the first-line supervisors, the corporals, are not doing a good job. They are doing a good job, but it just takes a different set of eyes when you’re trying to manage situations like critical incidents, especially the complex ones where you’re talking about a lot of people, you’re taking about organizations are responding from other communities to assist us. So it takes a lot of coordination, and the lieutenant level positions will allow us to do that, especially during the night and the weekend.”

Varela asked how department communication with the lieutenants would be handled.

“Well, we’re still going to have a communication level,” Cervantes responded, “because, again, they’re the highest level of supervision during the weekends and nighttime hours. So we just need to make sure that they’re included in the meetings that we have, that we have a lengthy basis to exchange that communication level information.”


Fitzgibbons concerns


Councilwoman Fitzgibbons said she was concerned that a quarter of a million dollars was being asked for, but there was little documentation to support the request.

“I have a lot of questions. I think this is important to the public,” she said.

Mayor Bob Jackson said that the council’s public safety briefing committee had discussed the proposal at length. Members are supposed to brief others not on the committee about what happened, Jackson said, “and we just did not do a good job of communicating that back to council.”

Fitzgibbons, however, said that, “Those (committee) meetings don’t tell us how we’re going to go. I think it’s important, especially something as large as this request is, something that we’ve invested so much time and energy over the last three years or four years. This is one of the largest actions.

“I think it’s great we’re moving forward, but I think it’s important that we share it with the people that have invested the time and energy of why this action, this request.

“I personally would like a study session or something that would give some more information. I wasn’t part of that briefing, so I didn’t get that information. But I do have some questions. I think we owe it to the public.

“Why you think these positions are important, I get that. But I wanted to flesh out a little more detail. Are these positions existing in our salary schedule? Are we going to have to recreate these positions, and then how long is that going to take to get approved?”

Jackson said the matter before the council was the approve the two positions, “which means to answer your question simply, yes, it will be a new job description,” and to authorize the $250,000 cost.

City Manager Thompson said an analysis of the two captain positions and the lieutenant slots has already been done, but did not say if the salaries will remain the same when the commanders are reduced to lieutenants.

“You’ll recall that previously the three positions that are moving back to lieutenants were lieutenants and we reclassified them to commanders,” Thompson said. “Once again we’re changing the organizational structure and reclassifying them again back down and then adding that additional layer for expanded control and some other issues.”

That did not satisfy Fitzgibbons.

“I understand what you’re saying, our job was to set policy,” she said. “But again, why can’t we take a look at what that organizational structure is going to be look like? How are they going to report and what are their duties, how will this affect the efficiency of the organization?

“This is $250,000. Our citizens want to know is it going to improve their response times, are they going to follow up on the crime that’s happening in their neighborhoods?”

Addressing Cervantes, Fitzgibbons said, “I don’t know. To me, it’s not answering that question, as far as the efficiency of the organization. So I don’t know if you could answer that in more detail.”

Cervantes said he would try.

“Right now, the first-line supervisors, the sergeants, have a lot of extra responsibilities,” he said. “That leaves them very little time to manage during some of the critical incidents. Again, the critical incidents could be very complex. The same with crime reduction strategy can be very complex.

“So with those extra responsibilities, it’s hard to do proactive supervision. What the lieutenant level does is alleviate some of those administrative responsibilities, action plans for example.

“If there’s a problem in the community that comes out of our crime predictive computer process, then I need somebody that’s going to take on active solutions and strategies to address those crime problems.

“Well, sergeants with those additional responsibilities have a difficult time to do it. They can do it, but it’s difficult. The lieutenant level would take on, absorb some of the responsibilities. Again, especially for the peak times, that’s where it’s really critical. Daytime, yeah, we have some of the resources to come out to help. It’s at the nighttime hours, during busy peak times where you don’t have that additional supervision to alleviate some of those responsibilities.

“And so to your question, yeah, I do think it’s going to alleviate and create some more efficiencies in that regard.

“And again, our number one priority is crime reduction strategies. In transitioning, you asked me what the vision was. I want to take this organization to where instead of where we’re responding to crime, we’re being proactive with crime. And again, these positions will allow us to do that, because it takes that burden off the sergeants so they can supervise, the lieutenants can get action items and then move forward on that. I think it will do exactly just that.”

Fitzgibbons repeated her desire for additional information, “just a little bit more information that people can refer to. It would be nice to see the organizational charts to see who’s going to report to who and how it’s going to work, what are the requirements? I just hope in the future that we look at that.”

Cervantes apologized for not including documentation with the request. “I guarantee I won’t make that mistake again. We will get that rectified and next time have more information when you approve it.”

Ordinances must be considered at two council meetings. Monday night’s approval was initial. Final approval is expected during the Aug. 19 meeting.

“And maybe put it on-line, some of this support, any documents you have would be good to share,” Fitzgibbons said.

“Absolutely,” Cervantes replied.


Other council comments


“I commend Lisa for bring these questions up that she has,” Councilman Dick Powell said,. “I think that (council briefing committees) are a good thing, but I think also that we all need to be able to sit down and read something prior to a meeting to digest it and ask questions if we have them. I was also surprised that it basically didn’t have a lot of background information.

“On the other hand, I know that our new chief has sat back and taken a sufficient amount of time to try to get the feel of things and try to study and figure out what the best way to provide police protection in our community is. And I think he’s come up with this change and I think that staff appears to be very familiar and supportive of it.”

There are different ways to look at the situation, Powell said.

“If we could knock a hole in some of the property crimes that’s going on around town, that would save our community a lot of money. I know some of the times we are understaffed on weekends and nights. I mean, for whatever reason it just seems like we don’t handle it as well as we do at other times.

“I think that (Cervantes) has done his due diligence and has come up with a plan I think is probably a pretty good one to try. If it doesn’t work, the biggest thing is you’re (chief) going to and we’re going to hold those people accountable that are added in those positions and expect to see noticeable type results. I think you (chief) would be the first say that’s what we should expect.”

“That’s correct,” Cervantes answered.

City Manager Thompson said the new hires will be on an at-will employment probationary period for “maybe six months or one year, just depends on the type of position and the level of training or on the job training that we do according to that.”

Councilman Karl Montoya’s observation was that, “I want to commend you (chief) for taking advantage of the ICMA report. We spent a lot of time, effort and money on that. It’s finally a pleasure to see some action being taken on this report. I know it’s been since 2009 (that initial steps on the ICMA study were taken), we’re finally getting to stuff that was already presented to us. It’s nice to see some movement on that and I know everyone feels a bit better. The roadmap is out there, now we’re starting to see some action taken, and I appreciate that.”


Final comments from Chief Cervantes


In his final comments to the council, Cervantes said, “One of my biggest challenges coming in here was determining how to approach any change. Like (comments during an earlier agenda item) about the downtown, it’s important to embrace the historical aspects of any organization in a community. And the same thing with the Police Department. It’s important to embrace that.

“It was a tough position to be in, coming into a very proud organization and implementing this kind of change. I knew it was going to be a big change. I don’t take it lightly, and I think it’s the right change for the future of this organization.

“I think it’s good to have that one foot in the past and embrace the good parts about it, but at some point in time you have to turn around to face the future. And I think this helps us face the future, and I think this is the right direction.

“I think this is exactly what this is doing, trying to embrace the good things about the culture and the good things about the structure, but at some point in time we have to bring that around, we have to bring that other foot around. And I’m very confident that we’re going to be just that and this is going to help us do just that.”


Other council actions Monday night ...

(Posted Aug. 6, 2013)


Other actions Monday night by the City Council include:


• Approving a $77,800 contract for landscaping maintenance.

• Approving a resolution approving the Life on Main master plan for redeveloping the Florence Street area south of the railroad tracks.

• Renewing the lease with Casa Grande Main Street at 110 W. Second St. and leasing the adjoining 108 W. Second.

• Accepting a $19,785 grant from the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission for the Victim’s Assistance Program.

• Accepting a grant of $20,000 from the Arizona Department of Homeland Security to cover costs of Casa Grande police helping with border enforcement operations.

• Final approval of a $400,000 contract to renovate the Casa Grande Little League complex.

• Final approval of paying $50,000 for membership in the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.



175 home sales in CG, average price $136,568

(Posted Aug. 7, 2013)


There were 175 home sales in Casa Grande during the past quarter, the Pinal County Assessor’s Office said. The average sale price was $136,568.


The full press release issued Aug. 7 is below:


Home prices in Pinal County remained steady over the first two quarters of 2013. The average residential single family sale was $154,416 in the second quarter of 2013 compared to $154,616 in the previous quarter. The quarterly sales volume rose to 1,827 homes from 1,568 during the previous three-month period.

The second quarter average sale price results represent a gain of 14 percent over the year ago results, although the sales volume slowed from 2,003 homes in last year’s second quarter to 1,827in Q2 of this year.

County Assessor Douglas Wolf stated, "After the dramatic year-over-year price increases we saw in the first quarter results, it is encouraging to see those values hold up in the market place.

"With an average sale price of $263,799 in Maricopa County for June 2013, housing in Pinal County is still competitively priced. If the regional economy continues to recover, we would anticipate further price appreciation going forward.

There were 447 residential sales in the city of Maricopa with an average price of $144,574 during the second quarter. Casa Grande had 175 sales with an average of $136,568. The average for Apache Junction was $118,961 with 100 sales. The town of Florence had only 37 sales in first quarter but the average price was $143,452.

The top sale for the period was a 3,800-square-foot home in the Superstition Mountain neighborhood of Gold Canyon. It sold for $935,000 in early June.

Assessed values are based on past trends, so the latest sales data will not be reflected in home valuations until the 2015 notices are mailed out early next year. Valuations are based on sales history over an 18-month period, so one quarter's results are not an exact predictor of what will happen on next year's notice of values.

Sales information is based upon data obtained by the Assessor's Office from recorded affidavits of property value. Only residential sales validated by the Arizona Department of Revenue were included in this quarterly report.






Map shows the location on St. Andrews Drive of 

the proposed house.

Found a builder? Check. Picked the colors? Check.
Gotten all of the final approvals? Well, not quite ...

(Posted Aug. 4, 2013) 


You’ll find the planning report here. Click on Staff Reports.


So, you’ve bought a lot in an unfinished subdivision. You hire an architect and builder for the custom home you want. You’ll roof it the way you want it and paint it the color you like.

Right?

Not quite.

It depends upon how that subdivision was originally approved. And, city approval doesn’t automatically mean that the homeowners association will approve.

In brief, developers bring their plans to the Casa Grande Planning and Development Department. The city staff looks them over to see if they meet city requirements, such as complementary colors, identical houses cannot be next to each other and two-story homes will be in certain areas. The plan must be followed.

If a change is sought, the applicant must come before the Planning and Zoning Commission to present the case for alterations of the original approval.

Such was the case during Thursday night’s P&Z meeting.

Tom and Judy Wohlleber, a Wisconsin couple, want to have a custom home built on vacant Lot 6, which is 2130 N. St. Andrews Drive in the Los Portales subdivision near the city golf course, but want to deviate from the original approval, mostly the roof and home colors.

Los Portales was originally a project by Brown Family Communities, but died during the economic downturn and housing bust and has since been taken over by an investor who is selling bare lots. Los Portales was platted in 2005 for 207 homes, but only about 45 percent were built. The original approval called for 18 different housing styles, any of which can be built with no further questions asked.

City Planner Keith Newman said the 3,135-square-foot home would be compatible with existing homes in the neighborhood, but would have some alterations, such as adding a golf cart garage and some slight changes around windows.

“The house color is actually kind of a new color being introduced in the neighbor, which is like a light gray type color,” Newman said. “A new Kona Red roof tile color is being introduced into the neighborhood, which is unique, and we love to promote diversity in colors. The concrete tiles are S-shaped, which is similar to all the other tile roofs in the neighborhood.”

Newman said the staff recommended approval.

That brought questions from commission member Ruth Lynch.

“I like different colors,” she said, “but I know that there are strict standards and I’m not sure if it’s in the HOA guide or if it’s in the PAD (planned area development) requirements. We’re introducing this new color, is this only available now for Lot 6? This is

going to be the only gray home in the entire subdivision?”

Only for Lot 6, Newman responded. He said he had read through the covenants, conditions and restrictions for Los Portales and did not find anything outlawing red roof tiles. Another home has reddish roof tile, as does the adjoining home, “so maybe it’s not that new but it’s a little bit darker. It is going to be the only home that is a gray color in the neighborhood for now.”

Lynch wanted to know what would happen if some other homeowner wanted to paint his home gray.

Planning and Development Director Paul Tice said there are two processes that control colors and architectural styles in subdivision neighborhoods.

“You have housing product as an extension of the PAD that’s approved by the city, which you’re doing right now,” he said. “Then you have (HOA) covenants, CC&Rs, that can impose different design review standards, if you will, but they can’t conflict with the city’s.

“We don’t review the covenants, so we’re not aware of what those might or may not be, whether or not they allow gray, or not.

“So for example, if the covenants don’t allow gray color and this gentleman builds his house in a gray color he could be in violation of his covenants and if the HOA takes action for violation of the covenants, he’ll have to come back to us and say I can’t paint this thing gray, I’m going to have to have a different color.

“So I’m assuming that just because we approve the gray doesn’t mean the covenants will approve the gray. It sounds like you’re going to have to come into compliance, right? Covenants may be more restrictive than ours but they can’t require something that ours do not allow.”

Jim Suor of Absolute Remodeling & Construction, hired to build the home, told the commission that he did not know if the HOA would allow the home to be painted gray.

“We can investigate that,” he continued, “and I would say that if for some reason that is an issue then I know my owners would probably pick something within their parameters. So I don’t see that being an issue.”

Mick Degn, who said he has lived at 2110 N. St. Andrews Drive for five years and has been involved with the HOA, told the commission that residents have been told by the investor that housing styles and colors will remain as in the original approval.

“I had two conversations on that today in regard to that,” Degn said, “and I was told that the specs would be the same as the Brown Family homes. I can’t remember what he said on the colors, but he said the colors would be similar.”

Lynch then asked if it would be prudent for the commission to give city approval if it is known that the HOA will not allow the roof and house colors.

“Yes, absolutely,” Tice responded. “As I mentioned, those are two different processes. We don’t control a HOA and its CC&Rs, right? We do have control of the product.

“What I just heard Mr. Degn say from the developer is that the specs are going to be similar to the homes. That’s absolutely true. These specs are similar. Whether or not this particular color scheme is allowed under the HOA rules, I can’t tell you. But I think the specs are very similar the existing homes. The footprint’s the same, the architecture is basically the same. I think it meets that.

“If that’s an HOA CC&R test, I think it meets that one. The color, I think is questionable. But, you know, this property owner will have to go get approval through the design review process of the CC&Rs, if there is one in place, and that process will either approve or disapprove this color.”

Suor again said he did not feel the colors would be an issue for the buyers.

“One note I wanted to make was this plan actually was designed right off of one of the existing plans. It is almost identical, other than the windows are the only thing that changed.

“At first we were trying to work within one of the plans, and then just couldn’t make it completely work. But it is about 98 percent the same.

“The colors and the roof tile, we can make that work within the HOA guidelines, if that’s the only issue, yes.”

Commission chairman Jeff Lavender asked Mark Graffius, assistant city attorney, what would happen if the homeowner and the HOA end up in court. Lavender asked if commission action in favor of the request could be interpreted by the court as support of the homeowner over the HOA.

“I think Director Tice has made it clear,” Graffius said. “I mean, we don’t really know what’s in the CC&Rs. Our job as staff is to take the application, apply it to the code and the rules and regulations, the requirements that our city code has. The planning staff has made a determination that it meets all of those design standards for PADs, so according to our rules and regulations and design standards it passes the test. They’re asking us to approve that design and since it meets all our requirements, staff is asking for it to be approved.

“Now, if they take the design to the HOA and the HOA does not approve it, for whatever reason, they can always bring it back and ask for a color change or they can argue it out with the HOA, they have options at that point. But us saying that it meets the code is not us saying that it meets the HOA requirements, the CC&Rs.”

Bottom line: The request meets all city standards. The next move is for the homeowner to take the request to the Los Portales HOA.

Commission approval was unanimous, with Cheri Edington absent.




Request for tall buildings, including apartments
and hotel, delayed until September P&Z meeting

(Posted Aug. 1, 2013)


A request for major changes in a commercial area behind the outlets center at Interstate 10 and Jimmie Kerr Boulevard, including a 110-foot-high hotel and a 165-foot-high apartment building, has been delayed until the September meeting of the Casa Grande Planning and Zoning Commission.

It was scheduled as the first item on the agenda for the meeting Thursday night (Aug. 1), but Planning and Development Director Paul Tice said he had received an email from the developers on Wednesday asking for the delay “so they can continue to try to address the issues and concerns that staff has noted in our report.”


Scroll down this page for earlier story covering the developer’s requests, the city objections and the city counter proposals.


The commission, with member Cheri Edington absent, unanimously voted for the delay.

In other action Thursday night, the commission:

• Approved a major site plan for a dialysis clinic in the Casa Grande Medical Campus, 1875 E. Sabin Drive.

• Approved the design of a custom home to be built at 2130 N. St. Andrews Drive within the Los Portales residential subdivision.

• Approved a request to build a 2,000-square-foot detached garage at 908 E. Trailblazer. The size limit without a conditional use permit is 675 square feet.


Reconstruction will limit access
to old police station on Marshall

(Posted July 30, 2013)


The Casa Grande Police Department issued this press release on July 30, 2013:


The Casa Grande Police Department will begin reconstruction of the old station at 520 N. Marshall St. on Monday, Aug. 5.

The work is a transition of the old building to the new Public Safety Communications Center which will house the 911 call center, dispatchers and continue to serve as a substation where citizens can contact a police officer.

This transition will last approximately six months.

During the transition, there will be no access to the front lobby of the building. There will be a call box located in front of the building for citizens to use if they need police assistance.

Those wishing to visit the police station for any reason are directed to the Public Safety Facility located at 373 E. Val Vista Blvd. This includes those wanting to drop off unused or outdated prescription drugs at the dropoff box.

Remember, if you need emergency assistance, dial 911 from any phone available.


Do the math: Is $50,000 dues worth
190 new jobs, millions in construction?

(Posted July 28, 2013)


Greater Phoenix Economic Council website

http://www.gpec.org/home


You’ll find the July 15 agenda item at

http://casagrandeaz.us/council/agenda/


The question before the City Council during the July 15 meeting was more than approving paying $50,000 to renew its membership in the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

It was a do-the-math question.

Has it been worth $50,000 a year over the past two years (with the Industrial Development Authority paying half) to bring in about 190 new jobs and millions of dollars in construction?

Yes, the council decided, although Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons said she had concerns about that $50,000 being too high and concerns that the council is not kept fully informed about potential new businesses or industries.

It was pointed out, though, during later discussion that many times there’s not all that much to talk about. Some industries want secrecy for competitive reasons, others use front agents to scout out locations and handle the details.

Richard Wilkie, the city’s economic development supervisor, told the council that belonging to GPEC opens a wide range of resources that the city would not otherwise have, including “their marketing machine, their research staff, being included on their website, participation in information network events, sit at the table to keep informed and voice our position and ultimately network with professionals of the other communities and also the industry leaders.

“However,” Wilkie continued, “the most important value of membership is, of course, the recruitment assistance, as was proven out with Franklin Foods (a cream cheese company). When they decided to locate here , that was a GPEC lead. It’s 65 new jobs and about $10 million in capital investment.”

Commonwealth Dairy, a yogurt operation that said it will hire 130 people initially and perhaps reach 150 with future growth, was also brought in. The company said it will pay well above the $43,000 a year state average wage.

“This past fiscal year, we were able to respond to six additional prospect requests,” Wilkie said. “They represent a total of over 1,100 potential new jobs, $240 million in capital investment and over 650,000 square feet of construction.”

Mayor Bob Jackson told the council that, “I sit on the GPEC board as well as the Central Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation board. And I think the big difference is the national exposure that GPEC has.

“They have two or three events a year where they bring site selectors in from around the world and you have an opportunity to sit and chat with them. The last one I went to, I sat at the table with a gentleman who was a site selector out of South Carolina and he was telling me about some of the things that he as a site selector looks for in communities when they look to locate an industry.

“It was interesting and informative. I came back and talked to both Richard and City Manager Jim Thompson about it, because it makes us more competitive in that area than we have been in the past.

“And certainly CAREDF does a great job, but I think what’s happened with GPEC is that it has put us at a different level with people that we’re trying to attract and makes us competitive within this region, as well. I’m big believer than any job in the Coolidge, Eloy, Casa Grande area is a benefit, but I also understand that if we can get a leg up on everybody else, that’s better still.”

Fitzgibbons said, “I still continue to question that the $50,000 is a lot for membership, but it’s great that IDA has paid for half of it and I really hope that happens again. So push that, that’d be great.”

Fitzgibbons said she would like to have ongoing information about prospects.

“We’re not there, we don’t see everything,” she said. “You say that we’ve had a few prospects.

“Of course, we want to make sure we see what the return on the investment is. Franklin Foods, that’s great, but I would really like to see a little bit more of what’s going on. I don’t know if you cannot say who the prospects are. Just a little bit more information.”

Jackson said that whether it’s CAREDF or GPEC, it’s a slow process.

“Commonwealth and Franklin happened really quick,” he said. “But I look back over the years of working with CAREDF, that’s generally a three-year process.

“And the first thing a company generally says when they come forward is, we don’t want to tell you who we are. We’ll tell you what kind of business we are. If it’s a relocation issue, they’re worried about their employees being told that, hey, we’re looking at a new location, you may not have a job, and then they torpedo each other. If it’s an expansion issue, they don’t want their competition to know.

“Commonwealth and Franklin are perfect examples. They’re entering the West Coast market, they didn’t want their competition to know what they were doing. So it’s a very difficult game and half the time we don’t know who they are.

“We know that there is a prospect out there and we go through the whole process of talking to them, Mr. X from Company Y. But it doesn’t lend itself, really, to having Richard come to the council meeting and report what the prospects are.”

Jackson said he apologizes for the long process, “but I know that in the time I’ve been involved with both GPEC and CAREDF, CAREDF has been a beneficiary of the GPEC machine, as well, because I think Commonwealth was really kind of a joint effort and GPEC said to CAREDF here, you take it. But it was really brought to us, if I understand correctly, by both GPEC and CAREDF, so, there’s an advantage.

“And while I agree $50,000 is a lot of money, if we create between those two projects 150 to 200 hundred jobs, do the arithmetic. At even $30,000 a job, that’s a lot of money in the local economy. And that’s new money in the local economy, it’s not recycled money from someone else.

“So I appreciate your comment, Lisa, but I guess my comment would be, trust us. And there are things that are in process that we may never see because they didn’t end up coming. But it usually takes a year or two before they’re ready for publication, at their request.”

Jackson is correct, Wilkie said.

“The first step is really just submitting the packets for a site, setting the criteria,” he said. “We don’t know, basically. We have a basic premise that they give us, this is what we need, then we wait. And suddenly it’s we’d like to come down and maybe take a tour. We don’t know if the people will necessarily introduce themselves or if they’re site selectors. That’s all we know. So it’s a very long, drawn out process.

“Economic development is not a race, it’s really just kind of a marathon. We worked with Franklin Foods and Commonwealth, we’re still working with them, and it’s been well over a year, year and a half. And if you want to talk about Phoenix Mart, it’s a long, drawn out process.”

Councilman Ralph Varela likened it to “bringing in a consultant and paying him $70,000 and if in one year he brings just one grant for $300,000, all of a sudden you’ve got your return on investment. If you’re able to hit two or three, then you’ve really done very well.”

Councilman Karl Montoya said he believes the $50,000 is a great investment.

“It puts you at the Big Boys table where the stakes are high,” he said, “but the thing is if you don’t roll the dice you’re letting the world pass you. We’ve already seen it pay dividends and I think it’s well worth it.”

Council approval was unanimous, with Dick Powell on an excused absence.



Planning staff recommends denial
of high-rise business area proposal

(Posted July 26, 2013)


You'll find the agenda here 


Ignore outdated staff reports link at bottom of online agenda. Instead, click on Staff Reports, below agenda link



A request for major changes in a commercial area behind the outlets center at Interstate 10 and Jimmie Kerr Boulevard, including a 110-foot-high hotel and a 165-foot high apartment building, is the main item on the Casa Grande Planning and Zoning Commission’s agenda for the Aug. 1 meeting.

The city Planning and Development Department has recommended denial. If the commission decides to approve the application anyway, the department asks for several changes to scale down and soften the look of the area, which would be known as Station II.

The meeting, open to the public, is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

The application is an amendment to an earlier approved planned area development for the site, north of Jimmie Kerr Boulevard.

“This PAD amendment seeks to change the land uses to major commercial residential/retail, senior care facility uses, commercial, business and service uses, indoor and outdoor recreation and proposes urban designed buildings and form, such as a 110-foot-high hotel building, a 165-foot high rise apartment building, six-level parking garage, four-story anchor store, single store retail with office above and building heights up to 75 feet,” the staff report says.

“To help put the building heights proposed within the Station II development into perspective, the tallest building that exists today in Casa Grande is the Abbott Labs cooling tower building which is approximately 200 feet in height. The Francisco Grande hotel is approximately 90 feet.”

The staff report notes that the area is slowly transforming from rural to suburban and will eventually become a major southern gateway to the city and downtown area.

“As such, staff does not have an objection to the creation of a commercial development at the Station II site,” the report says. “Staff simply believes that the building heights and perimeter building setbacks proposed in the Station II PAD take too drastic of a step in this direction and that a design that has a more gradual transition would be appropriate.

“Accordingly, in order for the proposal to meet the PAD criteria in regards to building heights and setbacks, staff has suggested a gradual transition of building heights and increased perimeter setbacks.”

Those recommendations, most involving a conditional use permit, are in the chart above.

“Staff recommends the commission recommend to City Council that the major amendment be denied due to the following requirements not being met:

• “The proposal does not meet the "Spatial Form and Design" of the General Plan 2020 Commerce and Business Land Use Category.

• “The proposal does not meet City Code section 17.40.020.1 (PAD Architecture) in that the proposed building heights are not compatible with the surrounding developments.

• “The proposal does not meet City Code Section 17.40.020.N. (PAD requirements) in regards to perimeter building setbacks.

• “The proposal does not meet City Code Section 17.40.020S.a.i. that the building(s) or shopping center shall be located at the intersection of two arterial roadways or have frontage on an arterial roadway and be immediately adjacent to an interstate highway.”

The report says that if the Planning Commission were to forward a favorable recommendation to City Council regarding the Station II PAD, staff would suggest conditions of approval including those in the above chart.

Other agenda items include:

• A major site plan for a dialysis clinic in the Casa Grande Medical Campus, 1875 E. Sabin Drive.

• A request for approval of the design of a custom home to be built at 2130 N. St. Andrews Drive within the Los Portales residential subdivision.

• A request to build a 2,000-square-foot detached garage at 908 E. Trailblazer. The size limit without a conditional use permit is 675 square feet.



Little League complex work won't change
use agreement; local subcontracting seen

(Posted July 23, 2013)


You’ll find the agenda item and supporting documents at

http://casagrandeaz.us/council/agenda/


Little League website

http://casagrandell.com/


Little League on Facebook 

https://www.facebook.com/cglittleleague



The renovation of the Casa Grande Little League complex on Amarillo Street near Ninth won’t affect the contract that exists with the city, the school district and the league, the City Council was told during its July 15 meeting.

The council was also told that the work under the $400,000 contract will probably also provide subcontracting opportunities for Casa Grande businesses.

Community Services Director Bill Schwind told the council that the work should be done by the end of the year. The staff report indicates that the project “has a small window for construction, as the high use season runs from January through June each year.”

The work includes fencing, irrigation system improvements, turf and infield surfacing, landscape and shade. “Those were amenities that were identified and prioritized,” Schwind said.

Councilman Karl Montoya asked Schwind what could be expected from the work.

Schwind replied that, “Obviously, you know as well as I that it’s an aging facility. Some of the issues that we want really want to address, obviously, are underground, a lot of the irrigation concerns. We want to maximize the use of our water, make sure in a drought situation the way we exist here in Arizona that we want to be able to water where we need it, when we need it and be able to maximize the use of that facility with the amount of use that it gets. I think that’s kind of where we’re at.

“I think the quality of the turf and the quality of the infield materials is probably number one. The fencing issue is old. Honestly, when I was here (as a city employee) in 1984 we moved that fencing from Francisco Grande over to this facility. So the fencing has been stretched a few times, it is old, it does need to be replaced.

“And those two, I think, are the biggest keys are to making this facility improved.”

Providing shade will also be done, Schwind said.

“Obviously, shade goes a long way when you’re playing ball out there,” he continued. “And it does serve two purposes to it. It not only provides shade, a little comfort for the spectators and players, but also gives you a little heads up as far as a foul ball. When you’re playing baseball in a sportsplex complex those foul balls go different directions.

“We’ll sit down and see how far our money can go and we’re going to take it as far as we can.

“We know lighting is an issue, but again you’re not going to be able to solve all the problems in this go around. As we continue to look at the age of some of our parks, we’ll move our priorities up and get things done when we can.”

Montoya also asked if the renovation work would affect the three-party contract for the complex.

“Does this in any way change the agreement between Parks and Rec and Little League,” he asked. “There’s kind of always been a worry that some of the arrangements would change and things like that. Will they get first priority? I know there’s an agreement between the schools, the Little League and the city. Does that change anything, the dynamics of this project?”

There’s no intent to do that, Schwind replied.

“In fact,” he continued, “I believe the agreement with the Little League is expiring. The legal department does have a copy of the document and we have talked to the elementary school district and in fact there’s some extra land there, too, for us to do perhaps more improvements out there, potential batting cages, warmup areas and the like, so we’re looking to extend that contract under the name of the Little League complex and move forward for another long term agreement.”

That’s great, Montoya said, adding that, “I know the Little League over 30-plus years has put a lot of sweat and blood in that facility, as well as money. It’s always been a good agreement. I’m not talking as a board member, but I know they’d probably like to keep it that way, as well, because it is a good agreement.”

Councilman Matt Herman said he had “spoken

with a lot of people about this and they’re disappointed that you had a project that local contractors and subcontractors could have handled and we didn’t get to award it to them.

“I know the city tried to reach out and did reach out,” he continued. “It just disappoints me, because we have these people that support our community year after year through sponsorships, the team sponsorships. You know, the subcontractors their kids play on the teams and it’s just disappointing to me because we always preach local and I always have been a fan of local people doing our local work here. A lot of the projects that we have been doing lately are just too large for some of our local contractors to do, and here’s one that a lot of people that we could have had and it’s just disappointing.”

Herman said he had no doubts that the company awarded the bid, Valley Rain Construction Corp. of Tempe would do an excellent job, but “it’s just a hard pill to swallow.”

It’s also hard, he continued, because that same night the City Council had awarded community partnership money to local agencies. “We’re

saying all the time that we need to keep our money local, shop local, build local and here we are awarding to a company out of the Valley,” he said.

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons, who continually questions contracts awarded to companies outside of the city, said she had spoken with Schwind about the contract, looking at the proposals.

“You do want a local bidder,” she said, “but we also want someone that has the expertise. And when you look at the sheet that has all the descriptions and everything, a lot of it is drainage and backflows, a lot of irrigation kind of stuff. That $400,000 isn’t really a lot, so you want to have someone that really specializes in these areas so we can maximize those dollars. It is a tough thing, but it comes to who’s qualified and has the experience and can maximize those dollars.”

Fitzgibbons asked if city personnel could do part of the work, stretching the $400,000 so that it could cover other improvements.

“Once we prioritize the actual improvements that will be going out there,” Schwind replied, “there will be several opportunities, I think, for the contractor to subcontract down to local contractors to assist, particularly fencing, buying the material locally, pipes, sprinkler heads, those types of things. A lot of the money, if not all the money, really is going to be spent locally as far as a lot of the materials and some of the needs that this facility will take. So there will be some participation, I would almost guarantee it, on the local side.”

Councilman Ralph Varela said that while he shares Herman’s disappointment that it was not a local contractor chosen, “I think part of the responsibility of the bidder is to develop that capacity to be able to compete. And so I think it’s upon the bidder, as well, to look at how they can develop their capacity in the future to be able to bid competitively or work in collaboration with others to co-bid it out.

“And I think we’ve always done that, to encourage the local bidders to develop their capacity to compete, but some of the projects are very expensive and they don’t have either the ability or the capacity to do that. So I think it’ll always be an ongoing conversation in regards to how do we get there.”

Initial approval of the contract was unanimous, with Councilman Dick Powell having an excused absence.


Main routes traffic lights being synced,
left-turn signals to all operate the same 

(Posted July 21, 2013)


You might think that if you obeyed the speed limits on Florence Boulevard and other main arteries you could zip along the way without ever hitting a red light.

Sorry.

The lights are not synchronized for continuous flow.

That is expected to change after the city finishes its traffic corridor study, targeting Florence Boulevard, Cottonwood Lane and Trekell and Peart roads.

Along with that, the city will straighten out the confusion arising from two types of left-turn signals.

Traffic Engineer Duane Eitel outlined both projects during a City Council study session.

“We have a project of corridor signal timing,” Eitel said. “An example would be you’re driving south on Pinal, make a left onto Florence and you’re going to I-10. Well, when we’re done with our corridor signal timing project, our plans, you’d be able to drive from Pinal to I-10 without ever stopping at a red light.”

The same would hold true on the other study corridors of Cottonwood Lane from Thornton Road to Arizola Road, Trekell Road from Jimmie Kerr Boulevard to McCartney Road and Peart Road from Florence to Kortsen Road.

Those are the heaviest traveled main routes.

“We looked at McMurray Boulevard and we looked at Rodeo Road,” Eitel said. “The problem with that is there’s some 4-way stops in there that kind of mess up trying to make progression work real well there. We’ll look at those in the future, but we want to get the four major corridors done.”

Pinal Avenue still belongs to the Arizona Department of Transportation, not the city. Florence Boulevard, controlled and signaled by ADOT, is being turned over to Casa Grande.

“We’ll work with them on Pinal to see if we can get them to time their signals,” Eitel said. “We’ve also had an agreement with them that they’re going to let us work on signal timing at Pinal and Florence that belongs to ADOT, and the I-10 overpass.”

The signal timing will include controlling flows during different times of day and night, such as on Florence Boulevard where the heaviest traffic is during the noon hour.

“Right now,” Eitel said, “all day long the same signal timing plan is in place. We’re going to vary that. There’s no reason that at 2 in the morning you have the same signal timing plan that you have when the peak rush hour begins.”

Councilman Matt Herman asked if the timing could also coincide with different times of the year, such as winter visitor season when traffic gets heavier and slower.

“Yes, we could adjust the timing seasonally,” Eitel responded. “The population now is around 50,000, in the winter time it is over 80,000. We do all of our traffic counting in the winter time, that’s our worst time.”

Mayor Bob Jackson asked if “in the middle of the night will you have just normal traffic-actuated signals or will you try to maintain that progression through the system?”

Eitel responded that, “That’s something we’ll have to look at as we’re looking at all this. For sure, we can do progression during the daytime, the more peak traffic, and we’ll have to decide if at 2 in the morning that is really what we want to do.”

As Jackson then put it, “It annoys the public to pull up to a light at midnight and because it’s a signal timing issue and not a traffic-actuated issue they get annoyed if they’ve got to sit there with apparently no cars coming, encourages people to drive through it. I think that as you look at progression if there’s a point of time at night that you can go to actuated signals instead of timed signals that would make all kinds of sense.”

Eitel answered, “That is kind of what I meant when I said different times of day. Once again, we’ll have to look at that.”


Left-turn signals


And that leads to those confusing left-turn lights. Eitel recommended that they all be the same.

Right now, 24 of the 29 left-turn lights in the city are what is known as lagging lefts.

Simply put, if you’re heading northbound on Peart Road and want to turn left onto Florence you have a lagging light. That allows the through north and south traffic to flow and then turns on the left-turn signal.

When you get to Peart and Cottonwood, it’s the reverse, one of five in the city. The first light is a left-turn signal, followed by the green for through traffic.

The situation is confusing and leads to the possibilities of vehicle collisions. Some drivers familiar with the lagging left will pull into the intersection during the through green light, knowing that the left-turn signal will then come on. They might try that again at a leading left signal thinking they could turn after the green light goes out. In actuality, the left-turn signal has come and gone, leaving the driver caught in traffic then coming from both sides.

Eitel would like to see all the left-turn lights the same, following the traffic engineering theory of driver expectancy, or simply that the driver will know what will happen.

The question, though, is leading or lagging?

“It would be nice if I could be here with scientific charts and bar graphs and all that sort of stuff to show you that one is definitely better than the other, but that’s not the case,” Eitel said. “All of these that I’ve looked at, it’s really difficult to find a significant reason that one is better than the other.”

Complicating it further is that while 24 of Casa Grande’s 29 left-turn signals are lagging left, in the majority of the country the leading lefts are used.

“Our population almost doubles in the winter time,” Eitel said. “All those people that come are used to leading left turns.”

That could be a reason to consider converting to leading left, he said, but on the other hand, “One big thing is we have more lagging left turns than we have leading turns. We have 29 signals. Out of those 29 signals all but five of them are lagging left turns.”

And why is that?

“Well,” Eitel said, “most of the new signals put in in the last few years were put in as leading left turns. I wasn’t here then, so I don’t know exactly why we did that at the time.”

Mayor Jackson, a former city public works director, said that about 15 years ago all signals in Casa Grande were leading left. The Arizona Department of Transportation, controlling Florence and Pinal, wanted to switch to lagging left.

“To Duane’s point,” Jackson said, “you hate to have some one way and some the other way. So they came to the city and they had done a bunch of research that indicated that you could get better signal timing with lagging left turns. They said it would also cut down on accidents, because one of the problems you have with leading left turns is when you get a really busy intersection and you need to start cutting down wait times, they’ll cut the time out of the left turn lane. So instead of getting five cars through the light, you get three. And the fourth might think, well, I know the other people have a yellow light, I probably can get one more there, and causing an accident.”

Jackson said Tucson has mostly lagging left turns. “And it happens that we’re in the Tucson ADOT district, so I think there was some feeling on the ADOT piece that they wanted to do it that way just because it helped them be consistent throughout their district.

“So we converted them all to lagging left turns.

And when you go to the Peart and Cottonwood intersection, they put a leading left turn, and that’s really what’s caused the confusion.”

Eitel said, “I think the fact that we have mostly lagging now and the fact that with ADOT if we went to leading we’d still have all these ADOT signals that are lagging, we’d still be confusing people.”

As the discussion wound up, Jackson said the council prefers the lagging left-turn light system.

“Well, good,” Eitel answered.


Casa Grande finance director resigns

(Posted July 19, 2013)


The city issued this press release on Friday, July 19:


Casa Grande Finance Director Diane Archer tendered her resignation letter to City Manager Jim Thompson today. Her last day of work will be Aug. 9.

"I have decided to step down from my position as finance director to deal with personal issues. My primary objective throughout my employment has been to keep the best interests of the City of Casa Grande in mind and so I believe the appropriate action at this time is to resign," stated Archer in her resignation letter.

Thompson said, “Diane has been an exceptional employee to this organization and we wish her the best in her future endeavors. I have complete confidence that our finance and IT staff will handle the day-to-day duties of the department efficiently as we transition and look for a replacement.

"We don't anticipate any service interruptions or issues to our customers during this transition period," said Thompson. The Finance Department is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Archer has been finance director for the city of Casa Grande since 2008. She previously worked in various financial capacities for other cities in Arizona and Minnesota.


UPDATE: Archer was scheduled to appear in court today. She told CG News that her attorney has entered a not guilty plea on her behalf.


-:-


This is the press release from the Casa Grande Police Department, issued on June 25, 2013:


On Monday June 24, 2013, the Casa Grande Police Department arrested City of Casa Grande Finance Director Diane Archer on charges of aggravated assault and domestic violence in connection with a vehicle collision involving her ex-fiancé́ Ricky Jackman. It is suspected this collision was the result of domestic dispute involving both parties.

At 3:15 p.m., police received a 911 call from Mr. Jackman’s son stating Ms. Archer drove her vehicle into his father’s truck in the 1400 block of East Avenido Kino. Upon arrival, Police found extensive damage to Mr. Jackman’s vehicle, which was parked in the driveway. A short time later, officers located Ms. Archer and her vehicle at her residence in the 1300 block of East Cecil Court. Following interviews with Ms. Archer, Mr. Jackman and witnesses, officers arrested Ms. Archer.

Ms. Archer was released from the Casa Grande Police Department later that evening. This case is currently pending investigation.


As they say, 'it' happens, and you need
to be able to track where it comes from

(Posted July 15, 2013)


You’ll find the agenda item at

http://casagrandeaz.us/council/agenda/

Clicking on items in color brings up staff reports and other documents



As the saying goes, “it” happens.

And a city has to have some way of keeping track of where it goes and where it will be happening in the future.

That’s why the Public Works Department asked the City Council during Monday night’s meeting to approve a $150,000 contract to update the North Sanitary Sewer Master Plan.

Deputy Public Works Director Greg Smith told the council that although the staff report says the city has about 260 miles of sewer lines, “the number that I find even more impressive is it means there’s a million and a half feet of sewer in our system.

“A quarter-million of that is key infrastructure that we need to be able to make sure we know what’s happening on it, make sure that we have the proper capacity to facilitate the growth that we anticipate this community to have.”

The master plan was last updated in 2005.

“Since then,” Smith said, “we had gone through a tremendous amount of growth. Growth has gone in areas that weren’t always expected and in patterns that weren’t exactly expected at the time that we did that master plan. In addition, we’ve gone through a very significant economic downturn. The development patterns have changed.

“And last, and certainly not least, is that in 2010 we adopted a new General Plan, which changed land use patterns throughout the city, changed land use density and focused growth in different areas. The current master plan does not adequately reflect those conditions that we now find ourselves.”

Smith said his department is asked by city staff or developers what can be done about sewer in a certain area, is it possible?

“The system, really, as it currently lays out doesn’t lend itself for us to be able to handle these new development patterns,” he said.

As part of the project, Smith said, “we will be getting a computerized plan of our system so that staff will be able to do most of the updates as we go forward,” allowing checking into a geographic information system data base for changes.

“For example,” he continued, “if a General Plan would come in or if there were a proposed amendment to the General Plan significant enough, we could go in and we could model that and see, well, do we have sewer capacity, what do we need to do?

“One of the things with the Phoenix Mart that is moving forward, is we need to be looking at some portions of our system. Right now, we don’t have that, we cannot model that right now to be able to say, well, what if this happens, what can we do? Having this sewer master plan update will allow us to do that.”

The primary update study area goes from north of the railroad tracks up to the city’s northern boundary. It runs west to Montgomery Road and east past Signal Peak Road to the planning area limits.

The council gave initial approval unanimously, with Councilman Dick Powell having an excused absence.

In other action Monday night, the council:

• Approved community partnership funding of $39,150 for Casa Grande Main Street, $43,500 for Greater Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce, $75,000 for Central Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation, $34,000 for Casa Grande Valley Historical Society, $20,000 for Pinal County Water Augmentation Authority and $100,000 for Boys and Girls Clubs of the Casa Grande Valley.

• Gave initial approval to pending $68,729 for an electronic identification system for the main city library, making it compatible with the branch Vista Grande Library and easier to cross circulate and catalog items. Equipment included in the purchase include the new detection system, permanent and mobile staff work stations, a self-check station for patrons, digital library assistant, a conversion station and the electronic tags necessary for labeling the library collection items.

• Gave initial approval to a $400,000 contract for improvements at the 30-year-old Casa Grande Little League Complex at 900 N. Amarillo St. The work will include fencing, irrigation system, turf, lighting, infield mix, hardscape, shade and other amenities.

• Gave initial approval to renewing membership in the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, at a cost of $50,000.

• Appointed Carol M. D’Souza to the Personnel Advisory Board.



O'Neil sworn in as City Court magistrate

(Posted July 15, 2013)



Christopher J. O’Neil, left, was sworn in Monday night as magistrate for Casa Grande City Court, replacing Judy Ferguson, who held the position for 24 years.

During the City Council meeting, O’Neil’s salary was set at $100,056 yearly.

Prior to the wearing in, Mayor Bob Jackson told the audience that, “I’d just like to publicly acknowledge Judy’s service to the city. She was a judge for 20 some years. I just wanted to publicly thank her for the years of service. She did a great job and I just wanted to make sure that we thanked her for that."


(Scroll down page for earlier story on O'Neil interview by City Council)



New Prowall warehouse approved

(Posted July 10, 2013)


A 33,840-square-feet warehouse for Prowall Building Products was approved Wednesday night by the Casa Grande Planning and Zoning Commission.

According to its website, Prowall manufactures an extensive line of stucco, wall panels and foam insulation products at its facility near Jefferson Avenue and Ninth Street, north of Gold Eagle Distributing.

Also approved was a final landscape plan for the Jefferson frontage north of the existing parking lot and on the east of the new warehouse.

Development at the site started in 2002 with construction of the 39,800-square-foot office and manufacturing building, a note with the staff report indicates. The building was expanded to 52,200 square feet in 2005. Two years later a 17,881-square-feet office/warehouse and a 13,391 storage building was proposed, but never built. The action Wednesday night was to amend and update that 2005 plan.

Included with the warehouse will be new parking spaces to the east and south and a new retention basin on the east side of the 7.55-acre site.


The commission also sent a favorable recommendation to the City Council on the draft master plan for the Life on Main redevelopment of the east south of the railroad tracks on the east and west sides of Florence Street.

The Life on Main idea began in June of 2012 when the city hired the Matrix Design Group to assist in a plan to redevelop about 15 acres that the city owns in the area south of the railroad tracks. It is bounded on the north by Main Street, on the west by South Washington Street, on the south by West Second Avenue and on the east by South Marshall Street.

Life on Main would be a multiuse project calling for a transformation of these properties, several of which were primarily industrially used for salvage yards and junk storage, into a multiuse redevelopment site.

That redevelopment could include:

• Commercial uses such as retail, restaurants and offices along Florence Street, reflecting an extension of the downtown.

• A live-work area with commercial and residential mixed-use buildings in the Florence Street block between First and Second avenues, providing a southern entrance into the downtown area at the Florence Street and Second Avenue intersection.

• A historic plaza incorporating the Casa Grande Hotel (the former rescue mission) and the Shonessy House into an adaptive reuse.

• A light industrial area on the west end of the site providing incubator space for start-up companies as well as space for small fabrication, assembly, light manufacturing and storage uses.

• Expansion of Elliot Park

• Development of a landscaped linear park and street parking along the north side of Main Ave. and the south side of Main Street to create a safe separation from the railroad corridor to both the Life on Main and the downtown areas.


The draft plan is found here

What the new Casa Grande city magistrate
said during his interview by the City Council

(Posted July 8, 2013)


(Scroll down page for earlier story about O'Neil's selection)


When the City Council interviewed the five candidates for Casa Grande City Court magistrate during a special session on June 1, all were asked the same questions.

The council chose Christopher J. O’Neil, now a staff attorney with the Pinal County Superior Court, beating out incumbent Judy Ferguson, who has held the position for 24 years; Dyani Juarez, now the senior court clerk; Robert Mendez, a former chairman of the Police Advisory Board and now a Superior Court bailiff, and Brian Wilcox, who has been with the Arizona Department of Public Safety for 33 years in various command level positions.

A posting on O’Neil’s Facebook page said he begins as magistrate on July 15.

Each candidate was asked the same questions. O’Neill’s answers, heavy on the first-person singular, were the longest, eventually drawing a comment from Mayor Bob Jackson that, “We have kind of run over our time, so I’m going to ahead and ask the remaining questions, Chris, but if you could be brief in the answers, that would help. There’s no easy to say that.”


The questions and answers:


QUESTION, from Jackson: We’d like all candidates talk a little bit about the qualifications they bring to the position, and talk a little bit about your leadership management experience and any experience you’ve had with personnel and budgets.


O’Neil responded that, “I was born in Casa Grande. My parents and my grandparents on both sides spent their lives as devoted and proud members of this community. Casa Grande is in my blood. My friends, my teachers, my coaches, my mentors, to me were the men and women who make this city beautiful. They made me who I am. They taught me to love this community, to appreciate it and to serve its people, who I think of as my extended family.”

O’Neil said that was the reason that when his legal education was completed and he and his wife decided to have children they came back to Casa Grande where both of their families live.

“And that’s why I’m here tonight,” he continued. “I’m here to offer my heart and my soul, all of my skills and expertise to this city for the betterment of our community. I want my children and I want everybody else in this city to love it as much as I do. I believe that the City Court is the people’s court. Casa Grande is who I am and its people are my people.”

O’Neil pointed out that he has a law degree and is licensed to practice in Arizona.

“Those are pieces of paper,” he said, “but they also represent something. They represent knowledge and they represent training, specifically in the area of law. That’s valuable enough on its own, I believe, because I’m trained to do this job.

“But my education, my degree represents a lot more than that, because it represents everything that went into obtaining those things. It represents hard work and character and proven success. I graduated magna cum laude from Arizona State University and I went on to excel at law school, where I earned a place on the editorial board of the Arizona Law Review. I did all of this while simultaneously working my way through law school at a local law firm, 24 hours a week, every week. And that’s not to mention the many hours I devoted to service to my church and elsewhere.”

That degree, O’Neil said, “does not make me who I am, it is proof of what I can do. And my work experience proves that I am experienced and I am equipped in the practice of law, and specifically in the area of the administration of justice. I’m trained to practice in our legal system, its principles, court operation and case law. I have worked in civil, criminal, municipal, appellate law and more besides.”

O’Neil said he is also a pro tem justice of the peace in Pinal County, appearing at various courts. “I have proven my ability to perform the duties of a judge, on and off the bench,” he said.

As far as leadership and supervisorial roles, O’Neil said, “I supervised other writers and editors on the Arizona Law Review. The Arizona Law Review, in case anyone does not know, is a scholarly publication that’s put out by the University of Arizona. Like the university itself, it’s a Top 40 scholarly publication in this country. It is run by the editorial board and I had a leadership role on that board among the rest of the editorial board.”

In volunteer capacities, O’Neil said, “I have managed, coached and captained amateur adult soccer teams. In Tucson in my years there, I managed the sound department at my church on a volunteer basis. I managed the budget, I was the lead sound technician and I ran the sound equipment and technology and also trained and supervised anywhere from three to five other sound technicians in that role. My role at my current church here in Casa Grande, Trinity Southern Baptist Church, is less technical than that, less budget intensive than that, but in many ways it’s much larger than that, as well. I’m the small group coordinator for our church and I train and lead the other small group leaders in our church.”

O’Neil said, “It’s important for me to make it clear that I’m not what you would call a born leader, but rather I was made a leader by people who saw those qualities in me long before I’d begun to see them in myself.

“In 2004, I was working as an unskilled laborer for a construction company here in Casa Grande to put myself through college. A supervisor for that company chose, because of whatever he saw in me, to take me under wing and to allow me to work alongside him and trained me to help plan and supervise jobs for that company. I worked for him for a number of months and because of the success that we had working together, after a number of months the company leadership approached me and asked me to devise and propose and ultimately to implement an entirely new organizational structure for that construction company to increase its level of efficiency and to accommodate the rapid growth that the company was experiencing at that time.

“What I have learned through all of this is that leadership begins with people. I think the city judge needs to know the quality employees that work there right now and to understand them, not only to bring the best out of them, just as I would from every leadership role ranging from small group coordinator all the way down to soccer manager to know them and be able to bring the best out of them, but also to benefit from them and put boots on the ground, identify the areas where the court’s operations can be improved.

“The court is more than a judge, it is defined by every employee that works in that building.”

At the same time, O’Neil said, “my job as city judge is to analyze the operations of the entire organization from a bird’s eye perspective to identify areas where efficiency can be improved, where we can implement procedural controls to correct and prevent error, to bring in new innovations to provide better service, and evaluate the cost and benefits of the court’s resource allocations. It’s about seeing the big picture and understanding how all the individual parts come together and work together to form a functioning whole. That is a skill that’s a very strong skill of mine, that is analysis that I’m very capable of doing.”

Under that concept, O’Neil said, “I believe that the purpose of the City Court is ultimately service to the people of this community, to the taxpayers and everybody who lives in Casa Grande, Ariz., everyone that comes before the court and everybody’s that impacted by the court’s decisions, directly or indirectly.

“And as a result of that, I want to make a commitment here tonight that I will be transparent and that I will be accountable by means of specific tools that will objectively measure and report the court’s performance to you, the members of the City Council.”


QUESTION, from Jackson: What would be your first priority if you were selected city magistrate?


“My first priority would be to get to know the people there, for the reasons I’ve already identified,” O’Neil answered. “But I also have some specific areas that I want to pursue in that capacity.

“First of all, I want to evaluate the institutional controls that exist there to prevent error and to ensure that rights are being protected, so that no cases are slipping through the cracks.

“I have been to other limited jurisdiction courts, I have spoken with justices of the peace who have taken office and have gone through the same process.

“And I know that there are courts in this state where cases can slip through the cracks. Frankly, it can even happen at the Superior Court level, so I believe it is essential to make sure that we have the procedural controls to begin with, the human checks to make sure that cases are coming to our attention when they need to come to our attention and that they’re not slipping through the cracks.”

O’Neil said it boils down to, “This is an issue of justice, it’s an issue of ensuring that rights are protected. It’s also an issue of efficiency and it greatly impacts collections. And that’s not an area that’s fun to talk about.

“Most of us have had tickets and they’re not fun to pay, it’s not fun to talk about. But it’s not fair and it doesn’t serve anybody’s interest, including the people for responsible for paying the tickets, when the taxpayers bear an extra burden to pay for the court’s operational cost simply because somebody responsible for a fine has not paid it and the court has lost track of the case. So I believe the procedural mechanisms are the places that we start.”

The next issue, O’Neil said, is how the court can implement better technology.

“Technology is a big area,” he said. “This is going to be a priority for me from day one, to begin to look at the technology that we can implement for these same purposes and for the larger purpose of being efficient and effective as a court.

“For example, payment methods. We should be able to accept phone payments. I’d like to accept on-line payments. I think this is an issue of service to our community, I think this is an issue of efficiency for the court.

“This is something that is difficult to make happen, because it requires a lot of coordination between City Court, between the City Council and the Arizona Supreme Court.

“Other courts that have tried to implement these sorts of things have found it takes a lot of work, so I really think even something as simple as payment methods is only going to happen if you have a judge who has the will to make it a priority to make it happen. That’s going to be a priority for me.”

Another area of technology,” O’Neil said, would be e-ticketing, where a police office can issue an electronic citation.

“Again, this is something that requires cooperation, it requires cooperation with the Police Department,” O’Neil said. “Tucson has done this, Glendale, other cities have done this. E-ticketing is something that allows the court to be more efficient and it serves the people who interact with the court.

“E-filing, that’s a longer time goal that may be even a little bit more difficult. But I want people to be able to file things on-line. I want the court to make things easier for people, not more difficult.

“I want the court to be approachable, I want it to be understandable for people. I don’t want an arcane court that is far from the people, I want the court to be at the people’s level, to bring the law before the people in a way that they can understand, and I think technology is part of that.”


QUESTION FROM JACKSON: We (the city) have talked several times over the last few years about turning the City Court into a traffic court only and pulling all of our criminal cases into Justice Court and Superior Court. Can you talk about what that might mean to the city, from your perspective?


“I’m sure you’re aware that the City Court handles almost 10,000 new cases every year,” O’Neil responded.

“I see those as opportunities to have a positive impact on the individual lives in our community. I think that’s the ultimate purpose of the court.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have a City Court that’s about Casa Grande, dealing with all of those cases, that’s touching the lives of all of those people. I believe that it’s a positive thing.

“As a city judge, I am about Casa Grande and I’m about impacting the lives that come before me, lives that are impacted by my decisions, to make our community better.”

But, should the court become a traffic court only?

“I’m sure there are many factors that go into that, and I will leave that to you,” O’Neil said.

“But what I would tell you today is that my desire is to have an impact, my desire is to have all these cases, of all kinds, which I am well equipped to handle, come before me so that I can improve our community.”


QUESTION, from Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons:: How would you measure success in the court?


O’Neil answered that, “One of the primary areas that would be most readily measurable would be in efficiency. I think that you should expect me to produce a better rate of collections, I think you should expect me to find ways to be more efficient and reduce unnecessary costs. That would be one of the ways, because I believe that’s a question of service to the taxpayers and to the community as a whole. I think the city judge needs to view the funds that are allocated to the City Court not as belonging to the City Court but as still belonging to the people who pay that taxes. So that’s one of the very measurable areas. Other areas would include how often decisions are being overturned by Superior Court.”


QUESTION, from Jackson: In just a couple of minutes tell us why you think you’re the best suited candidate for the position.


O’Neil answered that, “You know, I’m not here to complete against the fine people (other candidates) who are waiting out in the hall. I’m here to offer myself as a servant to this community. I believe I am equipped, I believe I am ready. I am trained and I have a deep heart for this community. I suspect that the people who are out there in the hall, the other candidates, feel the same way, but you are aware of what my qualifications are on paper, you are aware, I think, of the goals that I have.

“And I think in terms of the idea of having a people’s court, I believe I am as equipped as anybody can be to take the law, which I understand. I understand the reasons why we make the decisions that we make, I understand the reasons why we have the policies and procedures that we have in the court.

“There are legal reasons for the decisions that we make. I can understand those and I am equipped and prepared to communicate those to make sure that the people who appear before the court are not confused, they don’t see it as intimidating. I do not want them to fear and be intimidated by the court.

“And I believe I’m equipped as anyone can possible be to explain the reasons why, not just to the public but to the entire staff. I want the courthouse to work together as a team. I want us all to know the law, to know the reasons why we make the decisions that we do, the reasons why we have the policies that we do, so that we can work together as a team for the betterment of our community.”


Don't hold your breath waiting
for Cottonwood/I-10 interchange

(Posted July 3, 2013)

 

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the city, state and federal government to change their minds about not building an interchange at Cottonwood Lane and Interstate 10.

It won’t be happening anytime soon – if ever.

During its June 17 meeting, the Casa Grande City Council gave initial approval to a $583,592 contract for a study of an interchange at Kortsen Road and I-10, the city’s preferred location for several reasons.

Among the reasons given by the city are that major development on the east side of the freeway will generally be in the Kortsen Road area and because the Federal Highway Administration requires two miles between interchanges in less populated areas.

There is now an interchange at Florence Boulevard, which is a mile south of Cottonwood.

Public Works Director Kevin Louis explained during the meeting that the Arizona Department of Transportation went through master plan for the entire I-10 corridor “and as you can see the widening effort that’s going on out there was the first phase of that effort to determine where all the ultimate changes were going to be. The interchange locations have all been identified by ADOT. Kortsen is one of those.”

Similar concerns about the two-mile distance were raised by ADOT over the Jimmie Kerr Boulevard interchange being so close to the Sunland Gin interchange to the south. When it was announced that the Jimmie Kerr interchange would be torn down in the future and replaced by one at Selma, ADOT said the closeness prevented traffic, especially heavy trucks, from getting up to speed from the Sunland Gin interchange before they were caught in the Jimmie Kerr traffic.

The decision that night on Kortsen has brought questions and complaints from residents.

During the council meeting on Monday, July 1, to give final approval, Councilman Dick Powell said, “I’ve had a lot of people – it’s amazing – contact me this last week, and I don’t know if we can comment on what the law states or doesn’t, as far as ADOT is concerned. They (people contacting him) would much rather see Cottonwood done than spending the money on Kortsen.”

Powell said a major concern from them was that with the giant Phoenix Mart project going in east of Overfield Road between Florence and Cottonwood, “you’re going to have a mess on Cottonwood regardless of what you do, and they’d like to see the money spent on doing at Cottonwood. And I don’t know if we can get money from Phoenix Mart to help change that, or at least get that Cottonwood bridge (overpass) widened where you have more traffic that crosses.”

Powell said it was his understanding that ADOT prefers the two-mile rule, but, “I know in the Phoenix area they have one-mile just about everywhere through the more concentrated part of the cities.”

Powell’s main question was, “Can we do Cottonwood, are we restricted from doing it?

There’s people that say if you can get it paid for,  you can do it.”

It’s not that easy, City Manager Jim Thompson replied, giving basically two answers to the question.

“The first is cover the financial side,” he said. We’re using impact fees (charged on new development). Specifically, in our impact fees we stated Kortsen, so we can’t use Cottonwood.

That doesn’t mean we can’t go out and analyze Cottonwood.”

He that both the FHA and ADOT would be involved and they both want two-mile separation.

“Florence has an interchange and then Kortsen is your next one and then you go to McCartney and then potentially Val Vista. At some point in time we look for a possible expressway that would loop around Casa Grande, probably in the same location as the current Val Vista overpass is.”

Widening the Cottonwood overpass would also require a study and FHA and ADOT approval, Thompson said.

“We do not have any funds to do that,” he continued. “What we have funds for is Kortsen.”

Under rules approved by the Arizona Legislature at the urging of developers, a time limit is set on spending impact fees.

“We have 10 years in which to spend any of those new monies that we collect since that change occurred a couple of years ago at the state level,” Thompson said, “so we will probably never collect enough to pay for an overpass.”

If Phoenix Mart and other development brings major impact, Thompson said, “you might have another potential east-west corridor that goes over the interstate. Kortsen achieves that. You might have the ability to have another interchange on the expressway.”

The reality, though, Thompson continues is that, “We’re probably not going to get approval for Cottonwood to ever have an interchange. Florence is so close and Florence’s volume is so great.

“To the south, you next one would be Selma. Not Earley. Earley has an overpass, but Selma would be the next one down in that direction.

The state had planned on doing some improvements on Selma, but that has been removed from the (ADOT) five-year plan. Originally it was in the five-year plan for the moving and closure of Jimmie Kerr, doing Selma and building frontage roads. That is probably now out closer to the seven- to 10-year period of time. We just don’t know. It’s not in the five-year plan.”

For the city, Thompson said, Kortsen makes sense.

“We also have other developments that are coming in, potentially about a year out, depending on General Plan amendments and stuff, that will put a volume on Kortsen that would cause us to look to make those changes.

Potentially, those developers coming in, the  impacts would go on Kortsen, as well as Cottonwood, and we could start to look to Cottonwood to maybe be able to secure some money to do the study for widening. But because of its proximity to Florence I doubt that would be successful in getting approval, at this point.”

In the future, Thompson said, “Once Kortsen’s built, once Val Vista’s built, once we have them every two miles and our volume is such that we could look to the one-mile, we might be able to achieve that, but we’re not yet considered that urbanized area where you slow down traffic, where you do some of the other things that are necessary to be able to have these one-mile intervals.”

Powell said he had assumed that that was the case, “but some of the people were rather adamant that you could do Cottonwood.

“So basically you would not be able to put an interchange at this time with ADOT at the Cottonwood location?” he asked.

That is correct, Thompson replied.

Powell then said that the city would still be able to at least look at widening of Cottonwood,  “because with Phoenix Mart out there and some of the others, that’s getting to be kind of an accident-prone, dangerous area and it certainly needs to be widened.”

He asked that the city keep Cottonwood work in mind, which Thompson said it will do.

“Right now,” Thompson continued, “the only thing we have noted for an interchange on the interstate is Kortsen. If you look to the impact fees, next time we update the study we can include Cottonwood but the cost will impact from your  impact fees.”

Mayor Bob Jackson said a General Plan amendment for the east side of I-10 near Kortsen is in the future and part of the Kortsen study is to “also reserve that right of way so we don’t have to be buying buildings later on. I think we’re a ways away from that. I think the study is a couple of years long.”

The staff report accompanying the agenda item indicates the study will take at least 18 months.

“I don’t disagree,” Powell said. “I was just trying to determine. I’m getting pushback from people saying, no, you could do. And I said, I don’t think so, but I’m going to ask the question.”

Jackson replied, “I’ve had the same comments, and that was my answer, too.”

According to the request that the city sent out for proposals, the traffic interchange study

study area is to include Kortsen Road from Henness Road on the west and Kleck Road to Overfield Road on the east, including intersections with local roads.

“The TI study area also includes the I-10 corridor far enough north and south of Kortsen/Kleck roads to fit the entire TI ramps for I-10 for each TI option evaluated,” the request said.

It also pointed out that, “Development of the Phoenix Mart project generally located east of Overfield Road and between Florence Boulevard and Cottonwood Lanes is expected to generate significant traffic, requiring an alternate corridor for access to and from I-10.

“Kortsen Road can fulfill this need, with approval of a new TI with I-10, to address capacity and public safety issues for the Phoenix Mart and future development in the Florence Boulevard corridor and in the east Casa Grande area.”

Louis said during the June 17 meeting that when the study is completed, “it will get us to a point where we will have a set of plans that is about 30 percent that we can share with the development community and utility companies so that they know the impact of that structure at that point.

“The consultant is also going to look for opportunities to secure grant funds to help us with constructing that project.”


Christopher O'Neil selected to replace
Judy Ferguson as CG City Court judge

Christopher O'Neil photo from Facebook


(Posted July 1, 2013)


Christopher J. O’Neil, a staff attorney with the Pinal County Superior Court, has been selected as new Casa Grande City Court magistrate.

O’Neil is the son of Bill O’Neil, a former Pinal County Superior Court presiding judge and now the presiding disciplinary judge for the Arizona Supreme Court.

He was chosen over four other candidates. They were incumbent Judy Ferguson, who has held the position for more than 20 years; Dyani Juarez, now the senior court clerk; Robert Mendez, a former chairman of the Police Advisory Board and now a Superior Court bailiff, and Brian Wilcox, who has been with the Arizona Department of Public Safety for 33 years in various command level positions.

Christopher O’Neil’s background shows a little over two years in the Pinal County position, preceded by three years with two Tucson law firms and four months as a law clerk with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.

Each candidate was asked the same series of questions. All were nominated for the position, making them eligible for the council vote. Four votes from the seven-member council were required to win. A council member could vote only for one person.

In that voting, two votes were cast for Ferguson by Mayor Bob Jackson and Councilman Ralph Varela, one for Mendez by Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons and then four for O’Neil by Councilmen Matt Herman, Dick Powell and Karl Montoya and Councilwoman Mary Kortsen. Jackson, saying that it took four votes to win, declared O’Neil as selected.

The council had set aside an hour and a half for the interviews, a closed executive session to discuss council desires and then a public vote by the council. That ran over because of the length of candidate answers, pushing the judge selection until after the 7 p.m. regular meeting was over.

After the selection, Jackson said, “This is kind of new ground for us. I propose that Mrs. Ferguson would continue being interim judge. I would ask that the staff get together with the new magistrate, pick a starting date and then come back at a subsequent meeting and we’ll make the official appointment and a starting date for him. Certainly I think we need let Judy do what she needs to do to close it out.”

O’Neil, a Casa Grande resident, then said, “I would just like to voice right now my appreciation for the service that Judge Ferguson has provided for the city for 24 years and express gratitude that she would be willing to serve in an interim capacity.”

In other action Monday night, the council:

• Observed a moment of silence in honor of the 19 firefighters killed in the Yarnell Hill fire.

• Set tax rates for the community facilities districts at $2.30 per hundred of assessed valuation for Villago, $1.30 for Mission Royale and 30 cents each for Post Ranch and Copper Mountain Ranch. Those are district taxes on top of the regular city primary property tax rate.

• Set the city’s primary property tax rate at 99.99 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, an increase from the present 94.89 cents. The increase is expected to bring in $3,229,750, a decrease from $3,353,000 this year because of declining property value assessments.

• Adopted the schedule of city fees and rates.

• Authorized submitting of a grant by the Police Department for $21,073 to help with overtime costs for various community policing programs.

• Approved purchase of a tractor/loader at a cost of $74,763.

• Heard a presentation by Jeff Lavender and Joanne Kramer on A+ School of Excellence awards to Villago Middle School and McCartney Ranch Elementary School.

•Accepted a $16,000 grant from the Gila River Indian Community to replace the computer lab at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Casa Grande Valley.

• Accepted a Gila River grant of $24,500 for improvements at Ivy Park on East Carolyn Way. The money will be used to install all park amenities such as concrete pad, connecting walkway, picnic tables, grills and trash receptacles, practice backstop, soccer/football goals, and a two-inch water meter for turf improvements.


It's cheaper to bid out landscape
maintenance than hire a full staff

(Posted June 28, 2013)


The complete bids request package


As cities grow, there becomes more and more landscaping to be taken care of.

In many cases, it’s cheaper to contract out the work than it is to hire more city staff, given the taxpayer burden of wages, insurance and retirement costs.

That’s why Casa Grande is calling for bids for landscape maintenance at some city buildings and other areas.

The bids are to be turned in by July 9, with award of a contract tentatively scheduled for the Aug. 5 City Council meeting.

According to the call for bids, the work includes the contractor providing all labor and equipment needed for the job. The requirements say the landscaped areas must be maintained “at least bi-weekly or as needed, more often if necessary from March 1-Oct. 31 and at least monthly or as needed, more often if necessary from Nov. 1-Feb. 28.”

In addition to landscaping maintenance and tree trimming, the work requires that the areas be kept free of weeds and trash and that all walks and bikeways will be swept and cleaned.

If you’re wondering about your part of the city, these areas are included:


Public safety facilities


Fire Station #502, 1479 E. Ninth St.

Fire Station #503, 3305 N. Piper Ave.

Fire Station #504, 1637 E. McCartney Road.

Public Safety Facility, 373 E. Val Vista Blvd.


Golf


Greens retention basin at Dave White Municipal Golf Course on the north side, back nine, adjacent to Hole 15.

Links detention basin on the east side of Hole 1 and south side of Hole 2 ,including Tract F along The Links Way.


Medians and rights of way


Cottonwood Lane Median I east of Henness Road alignment, just west of the I-10 overpass.

Cottonwood Lane Median II from Trekell Road east to Henness Road.

Desert Shadows right of way north of Bisnaga Road, south of Rodeo Road, only along screened block wall adjacent to Desert Shadows.

Desert Sky entryway south of Kortsen Road on Thornton Road, east side of Thornton Road.

Henness Road median from Florence Boulevard north to Cottonwood Lane.

Lakes right of way on west side of Pinal Avenue from Casa Grande Lakes Boulevard South.

Highway 84 underpass landscaping, includes all median and right of way areas that have been improved with plant material and decomposed granite, plus additional undeveloped areas.

Peart Road median From Florence Boulevard north to Kortsen Road, including the four intersection at Peart and Kortsen.

Pinal Avenue median from Bisnaga Road north to Gila River Indian Community border, north of Val Vista Road.

Pinal Avenue east side right of way from O’Neil Drive to Kortsen Road.


Retentions


Highway 84/Thornton Road, to include all landscaped areas within the boundaries of the basin at the southeast corner of Highway 84 and Thornton Road, from road to fence.

Mission Valley Trail from Kortsen Road east from Trekell Road the until road ends and southeast corner of Mission Valley subdivision.

Parkview retention basin, including all right of way and retention areas within the boundaries of the basin to the street on the west side of Arizola Road and north of Mesquite Elementary School.

Sandalwood retention basin/right of way on Arizola Road, McMurray Boulevard and Clements Road.

Smoketree retention basin, on west side of Colorado Street, south of Sunset Drive, north of Manor Drive.



Why the city doesn't purchase
fully-equipped police vehicles

(Posted June 26, 2013)


The process of buying and equipping six new patrol cars for the Casa Grande Police Department has now stretched over five months.

The cars have been purchased, but the delays has been in equipping them, leading to a question from Councilman Karl Montoya during the last City Council meeting as members considered a bid for a second round of equipment:

“Why wasn’t this purchased when we purchased the cars, so we get a true value of what the cars are going to cost us?” he asked.

The response was that it is a matter of saving city taxpayer money, purchasing items separately and using city staff to install them, rather than paying dealer markups.

Anyone who’s ever bought a basic vehicle and later decided to put in a radio, for example, would know about markups. As an example, the dealer might charge $500-plus for a radio from the auto manufacturer, but across the street at a vehicle audio store the price might be $200, installed.

On Jan. 7 of this year the council gave initial approval to spending $194,110 to buy six Chevrolet Caprice vehicles from Courtesy Chevrolet using the multi agency bid solicitation power of the Mohave Cooperative Purchasing Contract.

The purchase price included the heavier duty vehicle components required in police cars but did not include extras such as emergency lights, computers and other items.

During the Feb. 19 council meeting, approval was given to spend $71,918 for mobile data computers, modems, docking stations and associated support equipment, again using the Mohave purchasing contract.

During the last council meeting, approval was given to spend $83,415 under a cooperative contract with the city of Goodyear for the external lighting, siren, partition, prisoner

seating, electronics, wiring, radar unit, controllers, push-bar, console, and computer mounting hardware needed for each vehicle for patrol use.

That brought the reaction from Montoya that the cost was about $14,000 a car. It would have been nice to have all equipment purchased at the time the vehicles were bought, part of a package, he said.

City Manager Jim Thompson responded that, “We normally do it under separate contract, only because of what many of the dealerships charge versus what we can go out to bid or find bids that are less expensive. By dividing up some those purchases we normally have cost savings associated with it.”

Thompson said having all purchases on the same agenda is sometimes challenging because of timing of bids and other processes.

“We’d probably still bid them separately because we’d get greater value by bidding out the equipping of the vehicles separate to the purchase of the vehicle,” he said.

The Police Department for years used Ford Crown Victorias for patrol vehicles, but has decided to switch to the Chevrolet Caprice.

Regarding all of the additional equipment, Councilman Matt Herman asked, “Will we be able to use a lot more of this equipment in the future as we get our old platforms changed over to the new ones? Do you see some savings in that, using the same platform?”

Public Works Director Kevin Louis said past policy has been that, “As long as the equipment is still usable we can usually use that for two vehicles (taking the equipment from an old vehicle and putting it in a new one). The equipment is put under some extreme conditions, so we’re not always able to do that. But we do take a look at that each time and make sure that if anything can be reused for a new vehicle we go ahead and use that. We don’t see that changing.”

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons asked what happens to the old equipment that cannot be reused.

“Typically, we pile it up in the truck, take it to auction and see if someone else wants to purchase it,” Louis replied. “We dispose of it per our procurement policy.”


Internet streaming of City Council meetings
to be part of upgraded Casa Grande website

(Posted June 24, 2013)


Casa Grande plans to begin live streaming over the internet of City Council meetings and other items from the city’s cable channel beginning July 1.

Public Information Office Agustin Avalos said today that the city is still working on building a new website that incorporates the streaming.

“One of the new features of the new site is the integration of our government access channel, currently only available to Cox cable subscribers,” Avalos said. “Council meetings will be streamed live and available on-demand.”

Avalos said another part of the new website, to be officially announced July 1, is a "How Do I" tab to take visitors directly to job openings, pay city utility bill, report graffiti and other actions.

"Our main focus is to make things readily accessible to everyone who visits the city website," Avalos said in an email. "We are making drastic changes to make it easier for visitors to find the information they are looking for quickly by making the new site easier to navigate."

The biggest addition to the new website, he said, is the inclusion of the city's government access channel 11.

“Until recently, it was only available to Cox cable subscribers in Casa Grande, but now anyone inside or outside of Casa Grande can watch it on a computer with Internet access through streaming video,” Avalos continued. “City Council meetings will streamed live and available on-demand. A neat feature is that the agenda for public meetings is integrated with the video, so you can see the agenda next to the video.

“What’s even better is that you can click on an agenda item and the video will take you there. You don’t have to watch the entire meeting. You watch what you want.”

Avalos said the Internet address will be www.channel11.casagrandeaz.us

“Other features of the new website include a microsite for the Community Services Department, which is one of the most visited departments on the city's website,” Avalos said. “The new site will display information about recreation and library programs, facility rentals, a parks map locator, golf course and much more.”

He said that Internet address will be www.casagrandeaz.us/rec.

A similar microsite is planned for the Casa Grande Police Department in the near future,” Avalos said.

He said the new website was designed entirely in-house by Tom Picklesimer, the city's webmaster, using WordPress, an open-source content management system.

Avalos listed these highlights of the new site:

• Tabs that separate news/announcements, items of interest, public meetings, and pet adoptions, along with comprehensive calendar of events.

• Council document center with links, including videos.

• Channel 11 streamed live.

• "How Do I" tab with frequently searched items, such as job openings, paying city bills, and reporting graffiti.

• It is also mobile-friendly.

• Email addresses for all city employees will remain with the @casagrandeaz.gov address.


Build a bike trail to the college
using housing money? No way

(Posted June 19, 2013)


You’ll find information and guidelines for the rehab program at

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/web/guest/housingrehabilitation

You can also call 421-8670.


The staff report is here



Each year when the city Housing Department applies for various grants, the law requires a couple of community meetings to hear what residents feel could be done with the housing money. A public hearing is then held.

The community meetings usually draw few, if any, residents.

And sometimes the suggestions have nothing to do with housing, such as one this year that the housing money be used to build a bicycle trail from Casa Grande to Central Arizona College.

That, obviously, was rejected.

The second suggestion was rather than rehabilitate housings throughout the city, targeting individual need, a program should be begun to cover a small area, such as one block, doing all houses, sidewalks and other work.

No one spoke during Monday night’s public hearing.

After the public hearing, the City Council approved these grant applications to help continue the owner-occupied housing rehabilitation program:

• $440,000 from the Arizona Department of Housing.

• $300,000 from the states community development block grants account.

• $110,000 from the CDBG regional account through the Central Arizona Association of Governments.

During the council discussion, Councilwoman Mary Kortsen asked why Planning and Development Director Paul Tice was talking only about the $300,000 grant request. What about the $440,000 and $110,000, she asked.

“Those were already authorized in a resolution the council passed one or two meetings ago,” Tice replied.

“We thought this $300,000 request was covered in that one as, well, but it wasn’t, so we had to have a separate resolution. We certainly are going to apply for all those funding resources, but the council has already authorized the other two.”

Kortsen said she attended one of the community meetings, then asked how the city makes the decision on what will be done with the grants.

“A couple of people showed up,” Kortsen said. “When you get that input, where does it go from there? It just seems like, I’m just wondering if we’re getting the same old thing and nobody is looking at doing something different.”

All comments at meetings are considered, Tice replied, including the suggestion to use housing money for a bicycle trail.

“Certainly a good project, probably a needed project for multimodal and for community sustainability issues,” Tice said, “but not really eligible for CDBG funding, because we have to have programs that really are targeted toward assisting low to moderate income folks. And so that bike trail really didn’t qualify.”

The second request, Tice said, “was to identify an area of the city where we might concentrate the expenditures of funds, to pick an area that’s low, moderate income and do housing rehab there and do some sidewalk improvements there, other enhancements, public community enhancements for that neighborhood. That kind of program certainly is eligible for funding. We could apply to do that.”

Instead, Tice continued, “We chose at staff level to pursue the communitywide owner rehab program that we have today, which opens up the use of our funds to folks in different areas of the community, that’s not concentrated in one neighborhood, where low to moderate income families and individuals can apply for assistance in various areas of the community as long as they meet our guidelines.

“In our guidelines, we prioritize by income level and disabilities and other criteria. It’s really been a matter of choosing between concentrating the funds in one area or dispersing through the community. At staff level, we chose to continue to disperse.”

Tice said he doesn’t know how successful a program concentrated in one area or on one block would be.

“We do have a very successful track record with our owner–occupied rehab that we have today,” he said. “In the past, it was the self-help program, which is no longer funded. That was successful. Today it’s sort of transformed into a owner-occupied rehab and we’ve been fairly successful with that. That’s where we are proposing to continue our efforts.”

Tice added that the decision is up to the City Council. “If it’s council’s directive or policy that you want us to change gears, we could do that. But right now we’re recommending continuing with the communitywide owner-occupied rehabilitation program.”

Councilman Ralph Varela said that a few years ago the state was pushing the targeting of specific areas.

“The thought behind it,” he said, “was that if there were three or four in a cluster of a neighborhood, if that’s all done, some of the other neighbors on their own could do their own rehabbing or at least the front areas and so forth, or even some simple things as painting.

“So I know that was tried statewide for awhile, and it seemed effective. You may consider that a year down the road.

Varela also asked how many homes the city had dealt with over the past year.

“We have rehabbed under this owner-occupied program 16 homes,” Tice replied, “which is actually a bit of an increase over what we’ve done the previous years. The target for the upcoming year is 10 homes.

“We can do more if the rehab amounts are smaller. It all depends on how much work the homes need, because we have a limited amount of funds. We try to stretch it out as much as we can. We prioritize city and code compliance issues, energy use like roofing and windows and air conditioning and major code compliance issues, electrical problems and those kinds of things.”

There is a waiting list to get into the program.

“We always encourage folks to apply to get on the list, because from time to time monies become available that we can use for one property but not for another, given how the funds are targeted,” Tice said. “So we do encourage low to moderate income people who have rehabilitation needs for their homes to come and get on that list.”

Does the city go to the people in need or do they come to the city?

“It’s really a mixture of both,” Tice said in reply to the question from Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons. “We do some community outreach to promote the program. We get referrals from other agencies who have clients who are in need and people just walk in off the street and apply.

So it’s really all of those ways people end up on our list and in our program.”

Councilman Dick Powell said he believes that spreading the program throughout the city helps people become familiar with the program.

It also makes neighbors more interested, he said, adding that, “At the last dedication that I was at, the homeowner next door asked what could be done and if we could address that one.”

Mayor Bob Jackson said the last dedication he went to was for the rehabbing of the home on the east side of the city of an elderly woman living alone.

“And she could not have been happier with the end result,” he said.

“As I recall, she had a swamp cooler, didn’t even have air conditioning in it. She was just really pleased to have a house that had air conditioning, had insulation in it.”

Noting that the rehab guidelines require weatherization and energy efficiency, Jackson said the woman “was telling the story that she could actually see outside through her front door when it was closed because there wasn’t any molding or finishing or anything on it. She said she could see the weather through the closed door before it was rehabbed.”




Why an interchange at I-10 and Kortsen Road
rather than heavier-traveled Cottonwood Lane

You will find the full agenda at

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/web/guest/agendacouncil

Clicking on items in color brings up staff reports and other documents.

(Posted June 17, 2013)


The first questions that came to mind when it was announced that the city was hiring a consultant for a study of a future major traffic interchange at Interstate 10 and Kortsen Road was: Why Kortsen? Isn’t Cottonwood Lane more heavily traveled?

Brief answer: Federal highway rules.

During the discussion on the item during Monday night’s City Council meeting, Councilman Karl Montoya asked for an explanation of Kortsen vs. Cottonwood.

Public Works Director Kevin Louis responded that the Arizona Department of Transportation went through master plan for the entire I-10 corridor “and as you can see the widening effort that’s going on out there was the first phase of that effort to determine where all the ultimate changes were going to be. The interchange locations have all been identified by ADOT. Kortsen is one of those.”

But why?

“The Federal Highway Administration

requires a two-mile separation between interchanges,” Louis said.

Cottonwood Lane is a mile north of Florence Boulevard, the nearest interchange to the south.

“A good example of why something less doesn’t work,” Louis continued, is as you get up into the Chandler/Ahwatukee area on I-10 you’ve got one-mile spacing and it’s very difficult for that traffic to merge and get comfortable before you get to that next interchange, and hence the congestion.”

Similar concerns were raised by ADOT over the Jimmie Kerr Boulevard interchange being so close to the Sunland Gin interchange to the south. When it was announced that the Jimmie Kerr interchange would be torn down in the future and replaced by one at Selma, ADOT said the closeness prevented traffic, especially heavy trucks, from getting up to speed from the Sunland Gin interchange before they were caught in the Jimmie Kerr traffic.

Because of the two-mile rule, Louis said, “We’ll only have a fly-over (overpass) at Cottonwood Lane. That’s the most we’re going to get there.”

No cost estimate for a major interchange has been given, but Councilman Dick Powell asked if ADOT was going to put up money “or do you have to try to find grants and different developers that might help fund it?”

Louis had a short answer: “ADOT made it very clear that they will not be participating in the construction of this.”

However, he continued, “When the time comes, if we’re able to talk them into sharing some of their funds we’ll absolutely go after those, but no guarantees.”

That’ll be a long ways down the highway.

The $583,592 study contract with Jacobs Engineering Group from Phoenix is expected to take at least 18 months.

According to the request that the city sent out for proposals, the traffic interchange study

study area is to include Kortsen Road from Henness Road on the west and Kleck Road to Overfield Road on the east, including intersections with local roads.

“The TI study area also includes the I-10 corridor far enough north and south of Kortsen/Kleck roads to fit the entire TI ramps for I-10 for each TI option evaluated,” the request said.

It also pointed out that, “Development of the Phoenix Mart project generally located east of Overfield Road and between Florence Boulevard and Cottonwood Lanes is expected to generate significant traffic, requiring an alternate corridor for access to and from I-10.

“Kortsen Road can fulfill this need, with approval of a new TI with I-10, to address capacity and public safety issues for the Phoenix Mart and future development in the Florence Boulevard corridor and in the east Casa Grande area.”

Louis told the council that the first step of the study project will be to prepare an update to the city’s existing traffic study that will help determine the best interchange configuration, look at the changing demands of the area, look at the city’s General Plan, “those types of things that will have a future impact on that interchange to determine how to best lay out for that.”

That layout with be reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration and ADOT, with an opportunity for the city to also weigh in, Louis said.

“The next step,” he continued, “will be a draft change of access, and concurrently we’ll be going through the environmental overview for this process. The federal process requires this environmental assessment to make sure that we continue to be eligible for federal funds for constructing this project in the future if we determine to go that direction.

“Through that environmental process that is outlined by Federal Highway Administration there is a public outreach process through our community on that impact to implement the project.”

Louis said that when the study is completed, “it

will get us to a point where we will have a set of plans that is about 30 percent that we can share with the development community and utility companies so that they know the impact of that structure at that point.

“The consultant is also going to look for opportunities to secure grant funds to help us with constructing that project.”

The approval Monday night was for the study only, not actual construction. The construction will greatly hinge on how the area grows.

“If we move forward with this project in the future it will most likely be because of development and that’ll be the driver on that,” Louis said.

In other action Monday night, the council:

• Approved a resolution to adopt the $174,018,180 city budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. No one from the audience spoke during the public hearing on the item. Action on increasing the primary property tax rate from 94.89 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to 99.99 cents is scheduled for the July 1 council meeting.

• Approved purchase of equipment for six new cars for the Police Department at a cost of $83,415.

• Held a public hearing, at which no one from the audience spoke, on submitting a grant application for community development block grant funds. The Housing Department is applying for $440,000 in state housing funds, $300,000 from the CDBG state special projects fund and $110,000 from the Central Arizona Association of Governments account.

• Gave local approval for a full service liquor license for Sam’s Club, another indication that construction of the store south of Florence Boulevard east of I-10 will proceed this year. Final action on the license rests with the state.


Casa Grande's primary property tax 
comes full circle back to 99.99 cents